Recipe's - "Let's Have a Theme Party"
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
1 butter-nut squash, peeled and cubed uniformly, about 1 inch cubes.
3 carrots, peeled and cut in quarter inch slices
-Turn oven to 375 degrees
-Cut the top and bottom off squash. Lay squash on its side and cut in half just above the fat bulb on the bottom. Remove skin from both halves with a knife or a peeler if preferred. Take bottom half and cut in half long ways to expose the seeds. Discard seeds with a spoon. Now there is just the flesh of the squash remaining for you to process into 1 inch cubes. Perfection is not required but relative uniformity is for evenness in roasting.
-Place butternut squash and carrots in a mixing bowl and coat with olive oil. Season heavily with salt and pepper. Add about 1/4-1/2 cup of sugar (brown or regular). Sugar helps aid in caramelization while roasting.
-Place season squash and carrots in roasting pan and place in oven.
-Roast until soft and caramelized. Mix every 20-30 minutes to ensure even cooking. Roast for total of 45 min-1.5 hours.
3 onions, thinly sliced
2 apples, peeled and rough chopped into .5 inch cubes (1 granny smith and 1 honey crisp or personal preference)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 gallon chicken stock (or vegetable stock if preferred)
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
- Coat bottom of stock pot with fat (butter can be used but careful because it burns faster than oils. Olive oil or grape seed oil work well.)
-Place onions in stock pot over med-med high heat. Cover. Allow them time to caramelize; only moving every minute or two. Use your judgment, if the onions look like they are burning, move more frequently or adjust the temperature. It is important to get a deep caramelized color in order to get the great flavor.
-Once onions are caramelized, add garlic and apples. Cook until apples soften.
-Add your stock and aromatics.
-Simmer for at least an hour to allow flavors to blend and mature in the pot.
-Add roasted squash and carrot to soup.
-Simmer for another half hour for more flavor.
-Once simmered, it is time to blend and season. For a larger batch, make sure you have a large enough container to place the blended soup because most likely, there is going to be more that one round of blending. Once all soup is blended, check consistency. If it’s too thick, add some liquid (more stock, water, maybe a little cream).
-After you have achieved your ideal consistency, it is time to season. The best way to season is a tablespoon or two of salt at a time. This allows you to taste as you go so you don’t over salt but get it to the point that is just right. If you care for a little spice, ground black pepper is great but cayenne pepper is great source of heat that doesn't alter flavor very much. Add a little at a time because once you've added too much, there's no going back! But don't be nervous. Trust your taste. If you like it, it’s good.
Pickling is great technique that takes pretty much any vegetable and jazzes it up. Here is a ratio for a basic pickle that is a good base for experimentation with pickling.
3 part vinegar/ 2 parts water/ 1 part sugar...Salt is also added but it is too taste. 1/4 cup is good starting point
-Bring mixture to a boil then pour over vegetables.
Try mixing up vinegars and sugars. There are a lot of possible combinations. You can add fresh garlic cloves, jalapenos, onions, or other aromatics such as cinnamon sticks, cloves, all spice or fresh ginger. It’s your world. Have fun with it.
Cucumbers, cauliflower, carrots, peppers, onions, watermelon rinds (skin off) are all good things worth trying to pickle. The longer they are in the pickle, the more they will absorb the flavor. Pickling is a method of preserving as well so they will not go bad!
Pickled Red Onions
-2-3 three red onions, thinly sliced
-One jalapeño, thinly sliced
-Cover onions and jalapeño with red wine vinegar and allow sitting over night. They will begin to turn pink. The longer you wait, the more potent they will be.
Tacos are one of my favorite things to make because they are easy, cheap and delicious.
-To make the chicken, I used dark meat from the thighs (you can use chicken breast or combination of both).
-To cook this, simmer in water (seasoned with a bay leaf, a chopped onion, and a small hand full of salt) for 45 min-1 hour until the meat is ready to fall off the bone. Remove from water and allow to cool then pull meat off. Once you have the pulled chicken meat, you can store it on your fridge and pull out when needed. It is important to thoroughly reheat the chicken in whatever sauce you choose (rib sauce, salsa, or just chicken stock. Add a little bit of water to the salsa and BBQ sauce to stretch it out because it will reduce during the reheat) to a good boil in order to prevent food borne illness.
-I used white corn tortillas. These are gluten free. You can heat tortillas on a skillet or over a direct flame like a grill. They only take about 15 seconds each side. Once heated, place immediately in a covered container in order that they steam themselves. A bowl with plastic wrap works well. Do a lot and save them so you can set up a taco bar when you’re ready to eat.
-A typical topping for a good taco is a mix of onion, cilantro, and jalapeño. Use one onion, a quarter bunch of cilantro and 1 jalapeño. (The pulp of the jalapeño is where the most heat comes from. If you prefer less heat, remove the seeds and pulp). Chop all these ingredients together and reserve in a bowl.
Now you've got your chicken heated, your tortillas steaming and your topping all ready. Now you are all set for tacos!
Rice and beans are always a great accompaniment to tacos.
Rice is tricky but I have figured out a good guideline that works the majority of the time.
4 cups rice (white rice...jasmine or long stem)
6 cups water
In a pot start rice in cold water. Add 2-3 tablespoons of salt and a half stick of butter or half cup of olive oil if you'd rather that. Cover and bring to boil as quickly as possible. Once at a boil, lower heat to allow simmering for 12 minutes. (Bring the heat down to low) after the twelve minutes is up, turn off heat and allow rice to steam itself for another ten minutes. If rice is still crunchy, add another half cup of water without disturbing rice and turn back on low for another 5 minutes then shut off and allow to steam again. Hopefully you won’t have to resort to this but rice can be tricky and sometimes it doesn't cook right.
Rice can be stored in your fridge and reheated in a skillet by heating about a half cup of water to a boil then tossing in the rice to rehydrate it. It’s great to have rice in the fridge. It goes with everything.
3 lbs. shredded Cheddar cheese
3/4 c mayonnaise
3/4 c Cream cheese
1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper
2 tsp salt
1 red pepper, small diced and sweated.
-Dice red pepper and cook in sauté pan with olive oil until soft. Be careful not to brown. Allow to cool.
-Mix all ingredients. If appears to be thick, add a little more mayonnaise and cream cheese.
-Serve on crackers or on toasted bread. It would go great with some pickled vegetables as well.
Spring rolls are easy and fun. You are going to have to find a specialty Asian market (I used were Vietnamese rice papers). They come with easy to follow instructions on the package.
Make sure you keep your fillings neat and nicely segmented in order that when rolled and cut, they are uniform.
Good fillings for spring rolls
There really aren’t any rules to spring rolls. Just find yourself an Asian dipping sauce you like and enjoy.
Tips for spring rolls
-If you are making them for a party, I would practice a few for yourself to get the hang of it. They are a bit tricky at first.
-Make them the day of the party because they can dry out. For serving them on a platter, use a damp cloth or towel to lie on the plate and then place another damp towel on top until you are ready for people to dig in.