Butternut squash is one my favorite of all of the edible gourds. (Doesn't everyone have a favorite gourd?) Any vegetable with BUTTER in the name is a winner in my book. I typically like to eat my squash roasted or grilled but for a nice change of pace in the Fall, I enjoy turning a big beautiful squash into soup. 🥣There's something about cool evenings, a blanket of crisp leaves covering the ground and a big bowl of butternut squash soup that I find so comforting. (I also like caramel apples and apple cider doughnuts in the Fall but I'm choosing to channel my energy into healthier seasonal cravings today.) 🍩🍏😂
The great thing about this Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup is that you can make it "light" and healthy or really go for it and create something super rich and creamy. You can make my recipe as written for a bowl of super flavorful deliciousness OR you can reinvent it and create your own bowl of squashy goodness. Stir in a tablespoon or two of cream, sprinkle toasted walnuts or roasted corn on top or toss on a few homemade croutons. Go crazy with your vegetable soup. So many herbs and nuts to experiment with.
Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup
4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/2" pieces
6 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon sherry
Sprinkle individual portions with pancetta.
Who knew that eating my vegetables could be so delicious?
"Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He's gotta pick this one. He's got to. I don't see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there's not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see."
I'm so inspired by Charlie Brown that I planted a pumpkin patch of my own this summer. 🎃 I faithfully watered, weeded and cared for my growing pumpkin plants for weeks while I eagerly anticipated the giant gourds that would grow. And then ... we had our roof replaced. 😬
Unfortunately, my precious pumpkin patch fell victim to the collateral damage from our new roof installation. It was pretty much demolished by the pile of shingles that landed in its path during the removal of our old roof. 😞 My hopes of having the most sincere pumpkin patch in the neighborhood were lost. But if I'm being honest, a roof without leaks was far more important than having my own pumpkin patch.
Lucky for me, I can't go into a grocery store, a gas station or a hardware store in my town this month without passing by an overflowing bin of giant orange pumpkins just outside their doors. Pumpkins are definitely not hard to come by here. I'm also lucky enough to live near a couple of pick your own pumpkin patches so I really shouldn't be too disappointed by the fact that my pumpkin patch had failed. I still have access to great pumpkins.
We set another record high temperature today so there won't be any pumpkin spice lattes for me for a while. I'm still enjoying the flavors of this beautiful season though. A simple unfrosted pumpkin spiced cake with a handful of chocolate chips is the perfect thing for this girl who craves the taste of pumpkin but can't handle a hot latte right now.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Snack Cake
1 cup flour
1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve.
Hey Dad - this recipe is lactose free! No dairy, no butter. Just thought you would like to know. Love you.
I have a lot of respect for French Toast. Sure it's crazy good but it's also a really ingenious (and efficient) use of ingredients. What else am I going to do with my leftover bread? Make croutons? Make bread crumbs? I do both of those things but I don't feel like either of those is the best use of my stale bread. I prefer to dip my stale bread in an eggy custard, brown it in butter and drench it with sweet maple syrup. The only thing better than having stale bread is having an overripe banana that I can turn into banana bread to go with it.
My only issue that I have when I make french toast is that I can't seem to make enough of it at one time. My largest skillet only holds 2 pieces of bread at a time so when I'm make french toast for any more than two people, we have to eat in shifts. That was until I ran across this recipe for Sheet Pan French Toast. This is genius. 8 slices of hearty, delicious, eggy french toast baked at the same time to perfection in the oven.
Sheet Pan French Toast
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup milk
8 slices hearty sandwich bread
Breakfast is served.
Great things never come from our comfort zone. Do you agree?
I'm the kind of girl who likes to live with familiar and comfortable routines. Don't we all really? I prefer a predictable and reliable lifestyle. Why mess with a good thing? But great things usually happen when I'm OUTSIDE my comfort zone and not living my comfortable and predictable life.
Travel is one of the best ways that I've found for me to stretch my boundaries and get outside my comfort zone. I get accustomed to viewing the world from my own front door. My little circle of existence gets very small when I spend too much time without leaving it. It doesn't take a long or expensive vacation to broaden my perspective and get me out of my comfort zone though. A day trip to the mountains, a hike through the forest or an afternoon spent on the lake can really reset my navigational beacon. It's not in my normal routine to do any of those things but they really are great ways to expand comfort zone.
I also have a cooking comfort zone but today I'm going to challenge myself to get just a little bit out of my culinary comfort zone. Adding a new grain or a new kind of olive into my diet can be just the thing that I need to break myself out of my comfort zone cooking. Pulling out the slow cooker, picking up some farro and Castelvetrano olives and putting together this uber-tasty chicken dinner for tonight. Great things happen when I break out of comfort zone cooking.
Mediterranean Chicken and Farro
2 Tablespoons oil
4 split chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup uncooked farro
1/2 cup chopped onion
10 pitted Castelvetrano olives, sliced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 glove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Garnish with additional parsley.
The beige pictures of this chicken dish don't really do it justice. The briney olives, the bright lemon zest, the crunchy almonds, the spicy red pepper and the fresh parsley all work together beautifully to create a dish that is absolutely bursting with flavor. I love the way that the farro perfectly compliments the chicken and visa versa. And the fact that you can toss it all in your slow cooker and walk away for 8 hours is just an added bonus.
If you follow my blog at all - you know that I am a workout junkie. I probably averaged 10-12 hours a week of workout time for the past couple of years. I estimate that 70% of that time was spent on cardiovascular exercise and the rest was strength and flexibility work. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I LOVE to workout, but I do love the feeling and benefits that I get when I am FINISHED with a workout.
I've been doing the same series of workouts for the past few years. I ride a stationary spin bike almost every single day and I have a collection of workout DVD's that I follow 5 days a week. I've been putting some of these DVD's in the player for over 10 years now and believe me when I tell you that I can recite them word for word - even the really terrible Tony Horton jokes. I've added new videos to my collection throughout the years but I've definitely been feeling like my workout schedule was in need of some changes.
At the beginning of January, I found a new collection of Barre workout DVD's to add to my workout circuit. When I tried to incorporate these new workouts into my already full schedule, I realized that I needed to revamp my workout schedule so that I could workout smarter instead of longer. I'd been doing the same workouts for so long that I didn't even realize that my workouts weren't meeting my exercise needs anymore. Over the years, I continued to add workouts to my schedule without taking the time to really assess what I wanted to get out of my exercise time.
My exercise goals have changed as I've gotten older. I'm more focused on my strength and flexibility today than I was 10 years ago but over time, I had phased out all of my yoga and strength workouts. It was a decision that I made based on efficiency. Spending an hour on flexibility felt like a waste of my workout time when I could be doing something to work my heart AND my muscles at the same time. I know, I know - wrong thinking. The good news is that I've finally come to realize the importance of adding these workouts back into my schedule.
My revamped workout schedule actually involves LESS workout time per week. My new schedule has 7 hours of workout time per week. 3 of those hours are devoted specifically to strength training. (arms, legs, core, abs, back) 1 hour is spent doing yoga or other similar flexibility workouts. The remaining 3 hours are spent doing some sort of cardiovascular exercise. I have to say that I'm super excited about this much more manageable workout schedule. It was just the shake up that I needed to get inspired to workout again.
It wouldn't make any sense for me to start a new workout program without pairing it with a healthy diet. No matter how much or how often I work out, my weight is more influenced by my diet. Creating healthy, pre and post workout meals has become more of a priority as the workout itself. One of my favorite post workout meals includes this Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. It's nutritious and loaded with great fuel for tired muscles and bodies.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Cold, rainy January days are perfect squash soup days. A big bowl of this is just the thing that I need to warm me from the inside out today.
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