Butternut Squash Soup

Soups fixes everything. We turn to it to fix our ills when we are sick because each comforting bite is a familiar hug that warms us from the inside out. Last weekend my family and I went on our yearly apple picking adventure upstate in Tivoli, New York. While we end up drinking and eating more than we do picking, our real joy is not in the bushels of apples we bring home, but in the abundance of fresh vegetables available to pick on the grounds. This is the time of year I wait for all year, when I get to break out the recipes I’ve been saving with more exotic vegetables that we do not often have on hand during the rest of the year.

My sister is an avid vegetable hater, so you can imagine my surprise when she requested Butternut Squash Soup after seeing our squash haul. The prospect of pleasing everyone in the house with one meal and not having to disguise the vegetables masquerading in my sister’s meal was too good to pass up. This soup is derived from a French recipe, incorporating both butternut squash and pumpkin to create a smooth, thick savory soup that perfectly encompasses the flavors of the season.

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Jambalaya

Sunday is my lazy day and one of my favorite things is to make a nice home cooked meal. I love taking my time, sipping some wine as afternoon fades into evening while I prepare my ingredients. I chop, mince and measure until I have a perfect mise en place set up. When I see that neat row of ingredients ready and waiting I feel invincible, whatever is on the menu, it’s going to come out great.

As the leaves start to change and the climate gets cooler, we turn toward comfort foods. We crave baked pastas and hearty stews to warm us up from the inside out. While paging through my recipes I wanted something a little different than the norm. When I came across this Jambalaya, I absolutely knew it would hit the spot. Such a simple list of ingredients and minimal effort rewards you with a creamy, spicy dish chock full of plump, juicy shrimp and flavorful smoky sausage. Every bite has a depth of harmonious flavor and pleasant textures. It’s decadent and delicious and worth every bite.

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Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant Caponata was one of my mom’s many signature recipes and I recall her preparing it quite often. Funny enough, it has also been the hardest to replicate. First, I couldn’t find the recipe even though I was sure of the cookbook it originated from. Then, a recipe index search yielded no results for Caponata. Frustrated I gave up the search, before ultimately going through page-by-page and finding a curious recipe for “Pickled Eggplant” with the Italian “Caponata” written below it. The recipe appeared to have basic similarity to mom’s, but ultimately I realized it was used a guideline and I would have to go about recreating her version by memory.

I remember coming home from school many afternoons with some trouble or another, my mother placing a cutting board and knife in front of me and letting me chop vegetables for the spread as we talked. The familiar tangy, sweet and savory smell of the Caponata melding together in the background. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Caponata is a Southern Italian (My Grandmother isn’t reading this, right?) tomato based eggplant spread, chock full of vegetables and finished with sliced black olives. It is a light and fresh appetizer to nosh on with crackers and a glass of wine and can be served warm or cold. Thankfully, we’ve had a thriving crop of eggplants in our garden this year, it took 4 attempts, but I finally got it right.

 

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Caprese Salad

Wanna look like a rockstar at your next holiday gathering, while also using your OCD tendencies for the good of all? Yeah, me too. Hence, Caprese Salad. It looks all big and fancy, it’s way over priced at restaurants and it takes about 10 minutes to throw together. Not to mention the fact that someone is going to find one thing on the plate they like. (My sister only eats the cheese much to the dismay of my perfectly organized plate.)

I like to serve this salad staggered, that way it’s easy to scoop into neat little piles of goodness, so you get creamy mozzarella, sweet basil and juicy tomato in each bite. Also, if you lay the slices like this, you can hide the tomatoes you butchered because you can’t cut straight and you don’t have the good sense to just buy yourself a mandoline already and have done with it.

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Big Mac Salad

If you know me, and since about 3 people read this blog I’m assuming you do. You’re probably staring at this post title in horror. Chrystie, the self-professed “I wouldn’t eat a salad if you paid me” salad hater making a salad post!?! Relax and please take note of the “Big Mac.” This is taste bud fun disguised as a salad.

I’ve always considered myself a healthy eater, subscribing to the thought of everything in moderation and splurging rather that sacrificing. But, when I eat something healthy I want to eat something good. I’d rather eat less of something fulfilling, than more of something masquerading and ultimately leaving me unsatisfied. It’s hard to find something that fits both criteria but this salad does it. Oh and it falls in at under 500 calories, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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