Butternut Squash Soup

I can’t believe it’s the end of August; I love the summer so much! The older I get the faster the seasons seem to pass. I heard the crickets loud as ever last week and before I know it they will be sneaking out of the cracks and greeting me in the wee hours of the morning, just before I’m off to work. In the next few weeks my husband and I will try to visit the Jersey shore as many times as we can fit into our schedules. But the time will pass quickly and fall will be upon us. Aside from summer, I love fall almost as much. I love the baking, our trip to Pittsburg to try and catch the fall foliage and visit my husband’s childhood home town. Pulling out the sweaters and lighting the fireplace for the first time on a chilly night. It’s so much fun Spotting the first pumpkins and gourds at the local farm market. Going on a hay ride with your family and pulling out recipes for favorite soups and stews. With all of these things to look forward to I can open my mind and embrace the upcoming season. Sundays are good days for me to be in the kitchen. After church I love to come home and make something special for my family. Today with the realization that the end of summer is about a month away, I thought I’d try making butternut squash soup. I’ve never made butternut squash soup so it will be a time of testing for me. I have had it at restaurants and last year at a friend’s house. I really enjoyed it each time I tasted it. I knew I would love to make it for my family homemade. I scouted the internet for recipes. There are many! I saw recipes that boiled the squash and vegetables and others that roasted them. I’m a big fan of roasted vegetables. Roasting just seems to bring so much flavor out of any vegetable. The other ingredient I wanted in the soup was apple. This is sure sounding like a fall soup now! I consulted my flavor bible book and decided to use bay leaf, nutmeg and cinnamon to add flavor. I also added an over flowing tablespoon of pure maple syrup to add a little more sweetness. To finish the soup I added a good dash of light cream and fresh grated nutmeg, just a dash. For a garnish on my soup I toasted some pumpkin seeds and sprinkled them on top. My house smelled amazing during this process I must say. My husband was kindly yelling out smells good in here! I just love that. Cooking and baking is such a blessing to me when I can share it with others. That’s what makes it a joyous task. Well, after about an hour and a half I brought my soup out to my husband for tasting. He really enjoyed it, as did I. All the flavors and ratios worked well together. I would definitely serve this to company. I would however like to make this soup a few more times and try a few different recipes before I give it a place of honor in my recipe box. As much as I will miss summer I’m looking forward to fall and all the fun and yummy things that come with it. God Bless and enjoy your day!

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Butternut Squash Soup

2 lbs. butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 large granny smith apple, peeled and cored, cut into 1 inch cube

1 large yellow onion, cut into 1 inch cube

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 cups vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1-2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Dash of cream

Fresh grated nutmeg, optional

½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

On a baking tray evenly spread out the prepared squash, apple, and onion. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Pour olive oil over the vegetables and apple. Bake 30-35 minutes until the squash is very tender. When done roasting the vegetables pour them into a saucepan. Add 1 ½ cups of vegetable broth, the bay leaf, and the nutmeg and cinnamon. Bring to a gentle boil and heat through and let the spices marry. About 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Discard the bay leaf. Puree the soup and add the remaining broth until you have a nice consistency to the soup. Finish the soup with a good dash of cream stirring to combine. Grate a little fresh nutmeg over top. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds.

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Afternoon Tea and The Great House at Sonning

Tea at Sonning on the Thames

A few weeks ago I helped my daughter Stefanie prepared her first tea party for two of her best friends. We both love tea time so much. When Stefanie was eleven years old we lived in England. This is where her appreciation of taking tea began. Every Sunday after church our little family would go for tea at The Great House at Sonning. Stefanie’s brothers were very gracious never to complain, they enjoyed running on the grass and enjoying the tea time treats. The tea was served in a china pot with china tea cups along with cream and big brown sugar cubes. The tea sandwiches and treats were served on a three tier china server. On the top plate were golden brown scones, and large chocolate dipped strawberries. The treats were tucked on the middle plate, and the tea sandwiches were on the bottom. We almost always sat outside. The grounds were beautiful and the scenery breathe taking. As we drove across a small bridge the hotel was sitting on the right. St. Andrew’s Church was across the street as I remember. We all loved listening to the church bells chime. What a lovely memory and a tradition to continue to this day. Fifteen years have passed since we live in England. There are times when I really miss those days. Upon our return to the Sates, I began having tea parties for the women in my family. The first party was a Christmas tea, we have faithfully had a Christmas tea ever since. This year we will celebrate our fifteenth. The party started with seven family members. To date our party has 25 guests invited. Among the guests are my daughter, Step daughter, mother-in-law, sisters, sister-in-laws, nieces, and very dear friends. It has truly become the highlight of our Christmas season.

The Great House at Sonning.

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the great house at sonning

sonning

sonning on the thames

church

St. Andrews Church.

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Stefanie, Amy, and Joanne.

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Tea sandwiches and savories.

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Tea treats.

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All photos of The Great House at Sonning obtained from Hotels.com

Individual Chicken Pot Pies

I have always loved chicken pot pie. Even when I was a young girl I thought it so comforting. I especially loved the gravy. When my children were very young I began to learn how to bake. I bravely made white and wheat bread, homemade cakes and pies. Most attempts turned out pretty badly. I remember once serving company  homemade coconut cake it was so dry, all they could say was how much they admired me for trying. In time my efforts improved. I got to know the look and feel of bread and pie dough and mastered the cake batter. I made the chicken pot pie recipe in the Better Homes and Garden cookbook over and over again until I could make it pretty much perfect. My children have always loved it. To this day if I make a special  dinner they ask for that pot pie. The crust is flakey and crispy. The filling heavenly, with the flavor of fresh sage and thyme baked into the chicken. The tender pieces of chicken, sweet carrot, baby potatoes, and a few fresh peas add even more flavor. I love the idea of making them individual just like the banquet pot pies my Mom used to buy. Only these are oh so much tastier.

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I like to bake my chicken in chicken broth, sprinkled with fresh sage, thyme, kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper. The broth keeps the chicken very tender and flavorful.

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Chop the vegetables in a small dice. Keeping them the same size for even cooking.

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Dice the chicken.

DSCF6589The gravy is made in the in the pan I sauté the onions and carrots in.

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Add all of the cooked vegetables and chicken.

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Pour the filling into the tins.

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Put the crusts on top and egg wash and bake.

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Time to enjoy!

Chicken Pot Pie

Homemade or store bough pie crust

3 cups chicken, diced

Good pinch of fresh thyme and sage, chopped

Kosher salt, to taste

Fresh cracked pepper, to taste

1 cup diced baby potatoes, yellow or red

2/3 cup carrots, diced

1/2 cup celery, diced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

¼ cup fresh or frozen peas

4 tablespoons butter

2 1/4 cups chicken stock or broth

¾ cup whole milk

1/3 cup of all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon ground sage

To prepare the chicken place the breasts into a baking dish add enough broth to generously coat the bottom, but not to cover the chicken. Sprinkle with fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. Bake 350 degree until the temperature reads 160 degrees. Rest chicken for 10 minutes. Boil the potatoes and carrots together until tender, strain and set aside. In a sauté pan melt the butter on medium heat. Add the onion, celery, salt, pepper, and ground sage. Be careful not to brown the onion. Cook until tender about 5 minutes. Add the flour to the pan stir with a whisk. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the broth while mixing with a whisk, and then add the milk and whisk to get smooth gravy. Cook until thick and bubbly. Add the chicken, potatoes, carrots, and peas. You may bake the pot pie in a 9 inch pie plate or individual tins. Pour the filling into the tins and top with your prepared dough. Cut a hole or slits in the crust to vent. Egg wash and bake at 400 degrees until golden brown and bubbling. I used only a top crust you may use top and bottom crust. You can also top with prepared puff pastry.

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Maple Glazed Carrots

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I ‘ve been trying to find some healthier options for snacking lately. I always think of raw vegetables a quick snack. On days off however why not make the vegetable snack a little more tasty. Steam or boil some carrots. Add them to a small fry pan with 1 teaspoon of butter. Just let the butter melt and then add 1 teaspoon of pure maple syrup. shake the pan to coat and glaze the carrots. Serve in a pretty bowl and enjoy.

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Sweet potato Fries

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Sweet potatoes are a real favorite of mine. I like adding them to my diet year round and cooking them in many different ways. Baked, mashed, and candied are top of my list. My husband Joe has never cared for them, which drives me crazy! I knew if I could just get him to try them he would enjoy them. Over the years I’ve made them many ways hoping I would find a way to awaken his taste buds to the creamy sweet goodness of these nutrient rich potatoes.  Well it took 12 years for this man to finally find a way to enjoy them. It should have been obvious to me that he would enjoy them as fries. He loves fried and roasted foods best like most people. I don’t fry food as a rule, but I do roast lots of things vegetables are a must for me as far as roasting. You get such rich flavor from roasting. So I oven fried some sweet potatoes and told him I really needed him to try one last time. If he didn’t like them I would give up. Well of course you know the happy ending. He couldn’t believe that he really loved them. With that said oven roasted is the only way he will eat them.

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Toss all ingredients together. Judge the oil you don’t want to much.

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Sweet Potato Fries

1 large organic sweet potato

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon smoky paprika

Kosher salt

Fresh cracked pepper

Pre heat oven 400 degrees

Scrub sweet potato and cut the potato in wedges. Place potato wedges on a baking sheet or cast iron pan. Toss with olive oil, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 8-10 minutes then turn potatoes over to the other side with a spatula to roast evenly and brown potatoes on both sides. Serve immediately. Serves 1-2.

Enjoy:)

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Hot Cross Buns And Snow

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My snowy backyard.

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I was at the book store one day last week and to my delight my eyes came upon a new magazine: SIFT, a King Arthur Publication. As I thumbed my way through I saw beautiful pictures of bread, muffins, cakes, biscuits, pizza, sandwiches, gluten free baked goods, and a section on a Mediterranean feast. The photos all looked so appealing, but one picture really had my attention: hot cross buns. I was hoping to make hot cross buns for the upcoming Easter season this year to share with my Mother-In-Law Helen. She just loves hot cross buns and buys them every year. I read over the ingredients and method for preparing the dough and the baking. I happily purchased my new magazine and couldn’t wait to bake the buns. Later that week we had a snow storm and I knew it was the perfect day for baking. The recipe called for either apple juice or rum, and I had rum on hand so I used that. It also called for mixed dried fruit, and I used a mixture of golden raisins and California raisins. I chose to mix the dough by hand instead of the mixer. When baking bread at home in such a small batch I love to get my hands in it. The dough was easy to mix and the process was relaxing. I did some reading during the rise times. It was so hard waiting for those buns to cool, but I wanted to enjoy the little taste of icing piped on the top to get the whole experience of the tasting. It was worth the wait! The bun was soft and tender. The fruit was tasty with the infusion of the rum, and who doesn’t love the taste of icing? I love the buns and the magazine. I will be patiently awaiting the next issue, but ‘till then there’s lots more great recipes in this issue to try.

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Little Quiche Tarts

DSCF6454 I was heading out of work last Saturday when I stopped to say hello to my friend Danny. She was sampling a special cheese with little toasts. Upon stopping she graciously offered me a sample. The cheese was called Grand Cru Surchoix. Danny could say it perfectly and I loved hearing it. It sounded so elegant. It was an Alpine-style cheese with a lovely complex flavor. I decided I had to buy some and putting it into a little quiche tart would be just perfect. I had some Apple wood smoked bacon in my refrigerator and fresh herbs to give it some color.  I used three large eggs, one cup of heavy cream, and fresh cracked pepper for the custard. No salt was added the cheese and the bacon have just the right amount.  I prepared my favorite pastry crust while the bacon was cooking. The little quiche tarts were served on top of spring mix with  a drizzle of balsamic dressing on the leaves. What a delicious  dinner tonight for my daughter and I. During dinner my daughter Stefanie just had to tease me in her fake English accent saying “your such a gourmet”. We laughed and enjoyed our lovely little tarts. I also saved a couple of tarts for my friend. I hope she will enjoy them as much as I did. DSCF6427 DSCF6429 DSCF6430 DSCF6433 DSCF6435 DSCF6438 DSCF6446 DSCF6448 Thanks for stopping by!!