Indian-Spiced Roasted Squash Soup

I love Indian food. I love the complex flavors, the curry and spices and a basket of freshly-made naan. Not much beats that! This soup is no exception and it’s super easy to make, not to mention very pretty. :)

Indian-Spiced Squash Soup

The hardest process of this entire dish is cutting and cleaning the squash, and trust me when I say it’s really not that hard. Butternut squash can be kind of hard to handle due to its size/shape, but I found a very good website with step-by-step instructions on how to peel, clean and chop it. This also saved me a lot of time from having to photograph my own step-by-step instructions. ;-) You can visit the website here.

Once you have the first 5 ingredients cut, put them onto a cookie sheet lined with foil, drizzle with olive oil and season with some freshly ground pepper. Isn’t it pretty?

Indian-Spiced Roasted Squash Soup

Some of my vegetables (especially the carrots) got slightly charred, but don’t get too worried if some pieces look a little burnt. I found it gave the soup a wonderful flavor. It also added some nice color variation to the soup. :)

The recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of curry, but I bumped it up to 2 teaspoons as I like a lot of heat and flavor. For those of you that can’t handle spicy food, start with 1 teaspoon and increase by 1/4 teaspoon until you have the flavor you want. I felt the flavors continued to develop after a day or two in the fridge, so be careful with the amount of spice you add.

The soup is garnished with a nice dollop of plain Greek yogurt which really helps to offset the heat a bit. I threw on a little cilantro, plus you could also add some pumpkin seeds. The recipe calls for the honey to be mixed in with the yogurt. I personally chose to leave it off completely, but I’m sure it’s a nice addition to the hot, spicy soup and the cold Greek yogurt.

This soup is rich, full of flavor and perfect for a cold winter night. Plus, butternut squash is at its peak in November, so take advantage before it’s too late! I’ll likely be trying out some homemade naan soon, so if it’s a success I’ll post the recipe. Be on the lookout for it!

Indian-Spiced Roasted Squash Soup
Adapted from Cooking Light
Yield: 6 1-cup servings

1 cup chopped yellow onion
4 medium carrots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 (1-pound) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 (8-ounce) acorn squash, quartered (skin on)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth (See note below)
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder, or more to taste (See note below)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (See note below)
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
6 teaspoons honey
Cilantro, to garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C).

2. Arrange the first 5 ingredients on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Drizzle with olive oil and season with pepper; toss to coat. Roast for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender, turning once. Cool for 10 minutes and then peel acorn squash, discarding the skin. I used a small knife and simply ran it along the skin. Alternately, you can use a spoon to scoop it out.

3. Combine the roasted vegetable mixture, 2 cups chicken broth, curry powder, garam masala and red pepper in a food processor; pulse to desired consistency.

4. Scrape the mixture into a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the remaining broth and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then season with salt.

5. Combine the yogurt and honey, and garnish each bowl with a dollop and a sprig of cilantro. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.


Cook’s Notes

1. This can easily be made into a vegetarian dish by substituting vegetable stock for the chicken stock. You’ll also need to eliminate the yogurt or find a non-dairy option.

2. Both the curry powder and garam masala can be found in specialty markets in your area. If you aren’t sure of any stores in your area, then Penzey’s (website here) is a great option! They have pretty much anything you can think of and they carry it in lots of different sizes. One of the best presents I ever received was a gift card to this store. That’s where both my curry powder and garam masala were purchased, and their quality is top-notch!

Roasted Carrot Soup

I’m on a huge soup kick lately, and the weather in Dallas has made it perfect for such food. I normally make chili, chicken noodle soup and maybe some sort of stew. This year, however, I wanted to branch out and try some new recipes. I also wanted to focus on recipes that were healthier and had a lot of flavor. This recipe achieved just that goal.

My friend and fellow foodie, Sara, joined me on Saturday to help with a full day of blog cooking. I’m not sure she knew what she was in for when she agreed to help! ;-) We both agreed this recipe sounded amazing, plus you can’t go wrong with 9 simple ingredients. The only ingredient that can be high in fat and calories is the olive oil. An easy fix would be to reduce the amount to 3 Tablespoons or even in half to 2 Tablespoons. You just want to make sure your carrots are nicely coated, though, so they don’t stick to the pan and that you have enough oil to cook the onions.

This is one of those recipes that doesn’t require a huge amount of work or utensils. The sliced carrots are broiled in the oven until soft, while the ginger and thyme are infusing the vegetable stock on the stove. The carrots are added to cooked onion and garlic, and then the strained stock is added to the pot with the onions and carrots. Once the soup is cooked a bit longer, you blend the soup until it’s smooth, season and serve. Sara had the excellent idea of throwing fresh thyme into the soup (and not just as a garnish). This was a great idea and added such a nice touch of flavor! The result was a rich, creamy soup that boasted a very impressive amount of flavor. It was served perfectly with our popovers, the recipe of which will be posted tomorrow. :)

Roasted Carrot Soup

Roasted Carrot Soup
Adapted from Food52
Yields: 4-6 Servings

1 3/4 pounds carrots (See note)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 inch-long piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1 sprig thyme, plus more for garnish
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste

1. Peel and cut the carrots into 1/2-inch rounds. Toss the carrots with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Place onto a foil-lined, rimmed cookie sheet.

2. Set an oven rack 6 to 8 inches from the heat source and turn on the broiler. If your broiler has a low or high setting, use the low setting. Broil the carrots until they are soft and starting to brown, approximately 15-20 minutes. Check them every 5 minutes and toss the carrots to ensure even browning.

3. Bring the vegetable stock to a boil and add the ginger and thyme sprig. Turn heat down to medium-low and gently simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Put the onion in a medium stock pot with the remaining olive oil. Brown the onion over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, and then add the carrots.

5. Strain the vegetable stock and add to the pot with the onions and carrots. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the carrots are soft enough to puree.

6. Using either an immersion blender or a standard blender, puree the mixture until smooth. If the soup is too thick, add a little more stock or water. Season with salt and pepper. If desired, chop a little thyme and toss into the soup.


Cook’s Notes

Most stores sell carrots in a 2-pound bag, so I used the entire bag and the soup turned out the perfect consistency.

Beef Stew

Once again, I owe everyone an apology for taking such a long time in between posts. My initial goal was to post 1-2x a week, but with life being the way it always seems to be with me (busy and semi-unpredictable) that’s not always possible. Regardless, I’m going to push myself to provide you all with as many yummy recipes as possible over the next few weeks to give you ideas of things to make for the upcoming holidays.

The temps have finally dropped here in Dallas. I kind of laugh because as I type this it’s 86 and sunny… in the middle of November. Oh, gotta love Texas weather! Regardless, the temps are going to once again drop tomorrow and so it’s a perfect time to start making soups and stews!!

A few months back my co-worker, Andrea, gave me some Axis meat. It was all wrapped up in butcher paper and some of it wasn’t marked. I had what I thought was a package of venison steaks, so I began researching venison stew recipes. I stumbled across one by Emeril Lagasse that looked and sounded amazing, so off I went to the store.

Beef Stew

Do you ever tell yourself, “You really should do that,” but then find yourself forgetting to do it? Well, that’s what happened with me. I knew I should have opened the butcher paper to verify the contents of it, but I forgot. Sure enough, I get back from the store, I have all my ingredients for the stew prepped and I go to open the package and what do I find? Bacon-wrapped jalapeños stuffed with cheddar cheese and axis meat. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m super excited to taste these bad boys, but unfortunately it wasn’t what I needed. So… off to the store I went for some stew meat. ;)

The best thing about soups and stews is they’re hard to mess up. They don’t require much skill, other than a bit of knife work with the veggies and herbs. This recipe is pretty straight-forward and produces an incredibly flavorful, hearty stew. I served it with some crusty bread and it was perfection!

Before I get to the recipe, I want to share some quick tips about chopping fresh thyme and basil. In order to remove fresh thyme, simple hold the top of the stalk with one hand and run your fingers down the length with your other hand (top left picture). This will quickly remove the thyme and then you can simply chop it a bit more. To cut basil, first you need to stack the leaves and then roll them up (top right picture). Then you cut the roll into slices (bottom left picture). This is called a chiffonade cut. Then you roughly chop to the desired size (bottom right picture).

Removing Thyme
Chopping Basil
Chopping Basil
Chopping Basil

Beef Stew
Adapted from Venison Stew
Yield: 8 servings

3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds stew meat, cut into cubes (see note below)
1/4 cup flour
3 Tablespoons Essence, recipe follows
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
1 cup diced tomatoes (see note below)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup red wine (optional)
4 cups brown stock, or more as needed (see note below)
1 pound red new potatoes, quartered
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Essence
2 1/2 Tablespoons paprika
2 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons garlic powder
1 Tablespoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 Tablespoon dried thyme

1. Combine all ingredients for Essence and store in an airtight container. You’ll only use a couple Tablespoons for this recipe, so the rest can be saved for later use.

2. In a mixing bowl, toss the beef cubes with the flour and approximately 3 Tablespoons of Essence; set aside. Note: The stew has a slight kick to it which I enjoy, but if you are sensitive to spicy foods you might lower it to 2 – 2 1/2 Tablespoons.

3. In a large pot or dutch oven, over high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, sear the meat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onions and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the celery and carrots and sauté for 2 minutes.

4. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, ensuring all brown bits on the bottom are scraped and released into the soup. This is where you get all the yummy flavor!

5. Add the garlic, tomatoes, basil, thyme, bay leaves and brown stock to the pan. Bring the liquid up to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer.

6. Simmer the stew for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the meat is very tender. Check halfway through the cooking time to ensure there is enough liquid. Add more stock, as desired or needed.

7. Turn heat up to medium and add the cubed potatoes. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Be careful not to overcook!

8. Ladle stew into bowls and serve with crusty bread.


Cook’s Notes

1. Most grocery stores sell stew meat already cubed and ready for use. If you’re unable to find it, simply look for chuck, chuck roast, chuck shoulder, bottom round roast or rump roast. There are plenty more cuts that’ll work, but those are the basics. Do not waste your money on fancy cuts of meat!

2. Make it easy on yourself and pick up a small can of diced, stewed tomatoes. I just tossed in a small can, juices and all.

3. The original recipe calls for 4 cups of beef stock, but I used 6. I added potatoes to the stew, which were not included in the original recipe, and they’ll absorb some of the stock. After 1 hour of cooking my stew reduced quite a lot, so the 6 cups was perfect.