Monday, September 22, 2014

Gluten free roasted butternut squash soup

Yesterday I made roasted butternut squash soup - loosely based on this Martha Stewart recipe. I'm sure going by her recipe is fine but continue reading if you'd like to check out my slight changes.

Note: there is no champagne or OJ in this recipe... but since I was cooking on a Sunday I felt it was appropriate to reward myself with a wonderful mimosa on such a beautiful pre-Fall day! For my recipe I used shallots instead of onion (more subtle, delicate flavor) and used no water, only chicken broth.

Ingredients

  • 4 Tablespoons of pasture butter, 2 Tbsp reserved
  • 3-4 shallots
  • 2-4 pounds of butternut squash (I used two which weighed just under 4 pounds total)
  • a bunch of fresh thyme (at least 2 Tbsp)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of fine sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3.5 cups of chicken broth

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 450° and make sure your oven racks are in the center of the oven.
  2. Slice your butternut squash split down the middle, and place the squash on baking sheets (I like the ones with the 1" raised sides), with the bright orange centers up. Scoop the seeds out with a soup spoon and discard (we place them in our compost and sometimes they yield more squash!). Halve the 2 Tbsp of butter and place a small amount in each open "bowl" of the squash. Drizzle olive oil over the squash. Place squash in the oven and set a timer for 20 minutes.
  3. After 20 minutes, check on your squash. See if it has any bubbling on the surface, turning golden brown and if the skin is shrinking. Rotate the pans to promote even cooking, and poke the squash with a knife to see if it is softening. Set the timer for another 20 minutes.
  4. Depending on your oven, your squash may be ready at this time. If you want a more roasted flavor, let it get more toasted, but just be sure to watch the skins as it will start to dry the squash up the longer it is in the oven, and you don't want to ruin your whole batch! I like it to have some dark brown spots as it adds more complexity to the soup! Remove from the oven.
  5. Scoop the squash out once it has cooled, it should be soft enough that you can just use a soup spoon and your hands. Sometimes the skin will be hearty enough that you can just peel the skin off and be left with your roasted squash (should almost be mashed potato texture). You can loosely chop the squash up if you want and set it aside.
  6. While the squash cools from the oven, thinly slice and chop your shallots. Warm up a dutch oven (I used an oval 5 1/4 one for this batch) on your stove top and place the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter in to melt. Once the butter is foaming, add your shallots, using a wooden spoon to prevent any burning and promote even cooking. As the shallots turn golden, take your thyme off the stem and add to the shallots. Once the mixture becomes aromatic, add your chicken broth and salt.
  7. Add in your squash, turn the dutch oven down to 3 (low/medium) and put the lid on it for about 5 minutes. This time should allow the pot to come back up to normal temperature for a light simmer. Check on your soup mixture and stir. Turn to low and let it sit as long as you want to have the squash breakdown and combine with the other ingredients (I tend to do it for an hour).
  8. Turn the soup off and let it cool.
  9. Pull out your immersion blender or your counter top blender. If the soup has cooled down, you can add it to your counter top blender. Use your immersion blender as you would normally and serve.
  10. If using a counter top blender, be sure to remove any attachments/etc. in the top to allow the steam from the soup to escape. Add the soup in batches until the entire pot has been added and pureed. Taste and add pepper as needed.
  11. My batch yesterday yielded two quart jars worth. ENJOY!

Combining the soup ingredients altogether in the dutch oven, just prior to adding it to the blender.

This soup is always so wonderful and filling! Butternut squash has so many health benefits that I need to keep myself going - B6, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants, etc. etc. Yes, I did put one slice of bacon in that bowl from yesterday and it was delicious. Just know it is wonderful without the bacon, too, as I went without bacon at work today. Let me know if you fix this one and your thoughts on my adaptation to the recipe.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fall 2014 women's fashion favorites from J.Crew

Fall 2014 favorites from J.Crew



I have a love-hate relationship with J.Crew. I love the styling of so many of their items, but I've repeatedly been disappointed by the quality or ridiculous sizing of their merchandise. In past years I easily could've spent hundreds on collections from the different seasons, but recently I've maybe spent $300 in the past three years combined. It's disappointing when a brand you've worn since girlhood has let you down. I've always loved the wool miniskirts and cable sweaters - their bread-and-butter for decades - and hold fond memories of wearing those items from middle school on. But I haven't been able to rely on those things in recent years and it's terrible when a brand alienates those customers who've been with them for so long. That being said (as I step off of my soapbox), some people love their clothes regardless of the changes in the brand. If I look at it from a purely aesthetic point of view, the items in the Polyvore above are the cutest, multifunctional but on-trend items that caught my eye in the J.Crew catalog this September.


I have yet to go to Short Pump Mall to check them out in person, but maybe one or two will end up coming home with me as they will meet my expectations? Here's hoping that's the case, and let me know if you have purchased any of these items and your thoughts on them!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sponsored post: Scout bags at JoPa for Fall 2014

Georgetown-founded and quickly approaching cult status here in the Southeast, the new Fall 2014 Scout bag stock has arrived at JoPa Company in Richmond, Virginia. You may not be aware that JoPa carries a large stock of Scout bags in their store, ready for you to browse! This stock includes items from different Scout collections, such as their bags, totes and storage bins.

JoPa took care in ensuring that their Richmond-area customers would find a perfect Scout bag. The available options include a wide selection of Scout's patterns, colors, materials, and whether or not the item is lidded and/or has pockets. There is certainly a Scout bag at JoPa with your name on it.

Running around trying to think of the perfect last minute gift? Come in to JoPa! Their sales staff can help you pick out a fun Scout bag, and then fill it with items such as coordinating Caspari napkins and plates, or a set of acrylic barware. If you need a new reusable tote for tailgate season and grocery trips, Scout bags are perfect for that purpose! A Scout bag is the perfect gift for that friend who has everything, the hostess of a summer's end pool party, or even the new PTA President at your child's school.

If you are unfamiliar with Scout bags, read their story here. If you are sending a child off to boarding school or college this season, look into the colorful and fun convenience of Scout's lidded and open-top storage options. From the preppiest plaid to the cheeriest chevron, your teenager and you will find the perfect storage item for their gear – no need to spend hours at the big box store when JoPa has what you need! These storage containers are perfect for athletic gear, seasonal clothes storage, or anything bulky that should be off the floor. They are collapsible and wipe clean, making them perfect for young adults!

Visit JoPa and find your new Scout bag today.


Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a "sponsored post." The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." All photos property of JoPa Company.

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