Nothing says fall like Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

A friend of mine had the most brilliant idea.  She invited me to a fall soup exchange.  The idea is that everyone who is invited makes 4 freezer bags full of soup.  On the day of the exchange, I will leave her house with 4 freezer bags of a variety of soup.  Like a Christmas cookie exchange, except healthier and four meals basically done for me.  Win!

My favourite soup to make in the fall is any involving butternut squash.  Butternut squash is so healthy for you, full of vitamins and minerals which make your skin glow, and let’s be real, everyone could use some extra glow, especially as the weather turns colder.

Soup is one of those things that I don’t actually use recipes for.  You can’t really mess it up.  So this post has more of a step-by-step thing going on, without too many measurements given.  Change it up to work with what you like, but here is the basic idea.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Cut a butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out all of the seeds.  Place the squash face up on a foil lined baking sheet and brush on some melted butter (or olive oil), and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pop it in the oven and bake until it is tender and pierces easily with a fork, about 1.5 hours.

All nice and roasty

All nice and roasty

 

While your squash is roasting away, melt about a tablespoon of butter in a large stock pot.

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Now, coarsely chop up a sweet onion.  It doesn’t have to be finely chopped, because eventually you are going to blend the soup with an immersion blender.

Coarsely chopped onion

Coarsely chopped onion

 

Saute the onion in the melted butter in the stock pot until it starts to soften up a bit.

Saute the onion in the butter

Saute the onion in the butter

 

While your onion is cooking, coarsely dice up about 4-6 pears (or apples, I just happened to have pears in the fridge).  I like to leave the skins on for extra fibre and nutrients, just make sure you wash them well.

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Add the pears into the pot with the onions and continue to saute for a few more minutes.

Pears and onions

Pears and onions

 

Once your onions and pears are soft and onion have started to brown, pour in about 4 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, lower the temperature to a simmer.  I also added a splash of white wine that I had open in the fridge at this point, gave it a nice taste.  Add in some salt, pepper, and a dash of cinnamon to taste.

Stock added as well as spices

Stock added as well as spices

 

At this point, if your butternut squash is done roasting, remove the peel and cut into chunks.  I actually just scooped the squash out of the skin and added it to the soup.

Scooping out the squash

Scooping out the squash

 

Once all the squash is added to the pot, give it the soup a stir and continue to simmer so all the flavours mesh.

Stirring in the squash

Stirring in the squash

 

Simmering away

Simmering away

 

After the soup has simmer for a bit, remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth (you could use a regular blender, I just find the immersion blender less messy!).

Nice and smooth

Nice and smooth

 

Once smooth, season further to taste, and you’re done!  At this point you could also mix in some milk, or sour cream.  For the soup exchange I was trying to keep things dairy free.

When serving, garnish with a dallop of sour cream and some roasted pumpkin seeds.  Delicious.

Yum!

Yum!

 

 

 

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Black Bean Quesadillas – My (very regular) Answer to Meatless Monday

Meatless Mondays are relatively new in our house.  I grew up with a dad who was the director of Engineering at Schneider’s, so meat was just the regular, and one of my fondest childhood memories were getting together with the extended family every winter and making sausages in one of my aunt’s basement kitchens.  My one attempt at being a vegetarian in grade six or seven was quickly squashed because, steak and ribs and bacon and salami (and by my dad telling me I was ridiculous)!  So along comes the idea of Meatless Monday and when Darren first suggested it, I got downright defensive, but I LOVE black beans, so once I calmed down, I started Googling recipe ideas.

With some experimentation, I came up with these quesadillas.  They are delicious.  You may not even notice that there is no meat.  I like to pair them with a salad, usually with salsa ranch dressing for some added Tex-Mex flair.

Start by chopping up about 1/2 of a sweet onion, a jalapeno pepper, and 1/2 a red bell pepper.  I saute these lightly in a bit of extra virgin olive oil.  Once the peppers and onions are soft, I transfer the mixture to a bowl and mix in a can of black beans that has been drained and rinsed.

Black beans with cooked onions and peppers

Black beans with cooked onions and peppers

I then mix in a generous amount of medium or hot salsa (enough to moisten the black bean mixture), and a shake or two of chili powder.  I then mix in a handful (maybe a 1/2 cup) of frozen corn for colour and flavour.  This mixture is what you will fill your tortilla shells with.

Filling all ready to go

Filling all ready to go

Next, I start heating up a frying pan, and give it a good spray of Pam (or any generic cooking spray).  When the pan is hot, I place one tortilla shell (you can use white or whole wheat, whatever your preference) into the pan to start browning it up.

photo 1-1Next, toss a sprinkling of shredded cheese (if the pre-shredded Mexican blend cheese is on sale, I use this, otherwise use marble, or cheddar, or whatever cheese you like best) onto half of the tortilla shell.

photo 2-1Next, scoop a liberal helping of the bean mixture on top of the cheese.

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Then, top with more cheese.

photo 4-1Next, fold the tortilla so that the filling is in the middle.

photo 5Then, brown this tortilla pocket of deliciousness on both sides (the cheese should start to melt).  Put the browned quesadilla onto a cookie sheet.  Repeat as many times as you need to to make the number of quesadillas you need.

photo 5-1The beauty is, you can do all of this ahead of time.  If you aren’t ready to eat, you can put the cookie sheets in the fridge until you are ready.  Or better yet, make some extras, wrap each individual quesadilla in a few layers of plastic wrap, and freeze (makes some quick and easy single serve quesadillas).

If you are ready to eat, put the quesadillas (on a cookie sheet) into an over pre-heated to 350 degrees and bake for about 10-12 minutes,  If cooking from frozen, bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping the quesadillas halfway through.

Once you pull them from the oven, let sit for a few minutes and then cut into quarters (I like to use a pizza cutter for this).  Serve with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, or any combination of the three.

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These actually get me excited for Monday!  Try them and let me know what you think!