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I know I am probably more than a month behind in this post, but I have been so excited to share this with you all. This year was the first time I spent Easter without my own family. I spent the holiday with Stu’s relatives and I was determined to bring something from my own family’s tradition. Although we are not super traditional-Italian, we always have an Easter pie. I don’t know my grandmother’s exact recipe, so I spent quite a while doing some research. I checked Food Network and found recipes from Emeril and Giada, but they just didn’t seem authentic. It was after a few different searches that I found a great article by Susan Russo from Food Blogga that totally defined my upbringing of Italian Easter dishes. I originally wanted to make a Ricotta Pie, but wasn’t keen on the addition of pineapple. I love the idea of Pizza Chena (or as we say, Pizza Gain),  but wasn’t into the addition of meat, and was a little intimidated by the whole concept. So I settled on the simple, yet delicious Italian Rice Pie, similar to my own family’s recipe.

Italian Rice Pie
adapted from Susan Russo

For the crust:
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 stick unsalted butter (chilled)
1 extra large egg or 2 small eggs
1 to 2 tablespoons ice water, or as much as needed

For the filling:

1/2 cup uncooked Arborio rice
4 cups of water or whole milk
7 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon extract (or the zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pound ricotta cheese, drained

For the crust, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse several times to combine. Add the butter and pulse about 10 times until the dough becomes pebbly in texture. Add the eggs and pulse repeatedly until the dough begins to stick together. Slowly add the ice water by the tablespoonful, while using a few long pulses. Add more drops of ice water as necessary, until the dough holds together well. Invert the dough onto a floured work surface. Form the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate while preparing the filling. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before continuing.)

If you don’t have a processor, then combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add chunks of chilled butter, and using a pastry blender or two forks, chop the butter until it resembles little pebbles. At this point, add the eggs and ice water, and stir with a spoon until the dough begins to form. Using your hands and working the dough as little as possible, transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough holds together. Form the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate while preparing the filling. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before continuing.)

To make the filling, place the rice and water or whole milk in medium heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook the rice, uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the rice is sticky. The rice should still be firm as it will finish cooking in the oven. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add the eggs and sugar to a large bowl. Using a hand-mixer, beat until well combined. Add the lemon extract (or zest and juice) and vanilla, and beat on low for about 10 seconds. Add the drained ricotta, and beat on low for a few seconds until just combined. Stir in the cooked rice. Mix with a rubber spatula until well combined, making sure there are no clumps of rice. Place in the refrigerator.

Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Coat a 10 1/2-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into an 11 1/2-inch circle. Transfer the dough to the prepared pie plate, gently pressing it into the bottom and sides. No fluted crust is necessary. At this point, set the crust in the freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes to get it really chilled, which will make for a flakier crust.

Remove the chilled crust from the freezer and pour the filling to about 1/4 of an inch below the top of the crust, as it will puff up slightly when baking.

Bake for 1 hour or until the filling puffs up, turns golden, and is “set,” meaning it should be firm, not jiggly when you gently move the pie plate. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Note: If you have some extra filling left over, you can pour it into a small baking dish or ramekins for a crustless version, and follow the same baking instructions. Leftover rice pie can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

This came out almost exactly as how I remembered it. I would have loved to use fresh lemon, but was skeptical of using regular grocery-store lemons as opposed to the Meyer variety. I settled on lemon extract, begrudgingly. The pie was delicious though. The cheese and rice was a perfect combination, and it looked absolutely lovely in my Le Crueset pie plate that I got for Christmas. It was a huge hit at dinner. I left some of the leftovers and took some home to have for breakfast later in the week. I can’t wait to make it again next year. I may even try some Pizza Chena! I recommend this dish even if it’s not the Easter holiday. It’s delicious and refreshing.

I have been very productive in the kitchen lately. Honestly, I have, although this blog shows no proof. Unforunately, neither does my camera. I have been up to my eyeballs in festive foods and baked goods, including but not limited to: apple butter, cranberry apple jam, pumpkin pie, apple pie, home made marshmellows, donuts, and a failed sweet potato souffle. However, most of these things were so involved that I didn’t get around to photographing them, or if I did, it wasn’t enough to make a post out of. Also, most of these things will probably be used as Christmas gifts so I don’t want to go too deep into details.

In the meantime, here are the photos that I did take, in no particular order, so that you can get a sneak peak of what I’ve been up to.

Apple butter in the Crock Pot.

Cranberries and apples, for jam.

Home-made marshmellows are weird, and just about as unnatural as regular marshmellows.

I roasted this sucker and made it into a pie. And a mousse. A vegan mousse. And granola. And I still have more to use.

So that is a general mash-up of what I’ve been up to. Mostly baking things that are unhealthy. I still have our final CSA pick-up to post, and it was  good one! As well as some of the seasonal meals that we’ve been able to get out of it. I’ve also been stocking up on potatoes and squash for the upcoming weeks. Now that our CSA is over, I’m trying to focus mostly on meals that are pantry-based, or more importantly, cheap. Things might get pretty boring around here, especially since the budget is tight, but I’ll do my best to keep things interesting. I’ll also promise to do my best at posting more regularly, as Christmas is coming up and I can already tell I’ll be spending many long nights in the kitchen making baked goods and home-made presents. Come on back for more!

Last weekend was Labor Day which is great for the many of you who are gainfully employed. It’s nice to have a three day weekend or an extra day off from work in general. For me, every day is an extra day of from work these days, so Labor Day was just a wonderful excuse to have a barbecue and eat tons of food. Which is exactly what I did.

We were invited to a barbecue in our neighborhood thrown by some of Stu’s friends and old co-workers. There was going to be a ton of food including burgers, sausages, and ribs. I felt that I should bring something and had been waiting for the right moment to use up all of our jalepenos to make Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread. It was the perfect addition to the feast.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread
from the Barefoot Contessa

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups milk
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the pan
8 ounces aged extra-sharp Cheddar, grated, divided
1/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts, plus extra for garnish (3 scallions)
3 tablespoons seeded and minced fresh jalapeno peppers

Combine the flour, conrmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter. With a wodden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Don’t overmix! Mix in 2 cups of the grated cheddar, the scallions, and jalapenos, and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile. preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13x2-inch baking pan.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and sprinkle with the remaining grated Cheddar and extra scallions. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and cut into large squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Woooahhhh these were awesome and a huge hit! Luckily, no one else had thought to bring cornbread. The jalapenos were not too spicy, but there was a nice warm after-taste, complimented with the Cheddar. I used regular yellow Extra-Sharp Cheddar. Ina Garten says that the yellow will look better, but white will give it more flavor, so it’s a matter of preference. I did not used aged Cheddar, just what I could find for cheap in my nearest super market.

The one issue with this recipe is that because the bread is so thick, it took much longer to cook than what the recipe listed as 30-35 minutes. After the 35 minutes, the middle was still very undercooked, although the edges were pretty much done. After sticking them back into the oven a few times, I eventually cut off the sides and put the middle in for another 15 minutes later on. Finally, they came out cooked. When baked correctly, these are incredibly thick and moist and very cheesy. So delicious and a great crowd pleaser! A great dish to make in the summer time when jalapenos are popping up everywhere. We had quite a bit from our friend’s garden, so it was a great way to use them up!

I’m pretty behind in posts this week, but that’s because I’ve been celebrating a lot of birthdays. I spent a night out at the Phillies game, enjoyed dinner at a BYOB in South Philly, sang karaoke in honor of a friend’s birth, and tonight will be celebrating a big 3-0 birthday. But in the midst of all of the celebrating, how could I forget to mention the most important birthday of them all? AMERICA! (and Rube Goldberg.)

We had a rooftop bash at our apartment, as I believe will become customary for any holiday involving fireworks. I tried to be very relaxed about it all and encouraged friends to BYO and go potluck, but of course at the last minute I began planning a bunch of fabulous recipes. We had so much produce from the CSA that it would be a shame not to share it.

Sunday morning we were up early to make a healthy batch of Sangria. After that I moved on to an Apricot and Peach Clafouti and an Isaraeli CousCous salad that featured some chard from our CSA. Stu threw together the Barefoot Contessa’s Old Fashioned Potato Salad and I finished everything off with an awesome white bean and garlic scapes dish. We also constructed some veggie kabobs and grilled up some home made burgers, brats, and Portabello burgers for our veg-friendly friends. And I should not forget the highlight of the night though- WHOOPIE PIES!

Click the link below for some recipes from the evening, and stay tuned for more updates in the next few days of other goodies that were enjoyed by all.

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So, you win some you lose some. This weekend I lost,  a lot. I guess I have been getting pretty cocky with my cooking and baking lately and I decided to try out not one, but two recipes that were a little bit more involved that I am normally used to.

Unfortuntately, the purpose of trying out both of these recipes was for Father’s Day. Stu’s dad consistently raves about my baking,  so I selected some recipes that feature some of his favorite things: Margaritas, Pretzels, Caramel, and Beer.

Margarita Cupcakes
From Annie’s Eats

For the cupcakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 limes, zested and juiced
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

For the frosting:
2 cups sugar
8 large egg whites
Pinch fleur de sel (coarse salt)
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2-4 tbsp. tequila

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir with a fork to blend.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the lime zest, lime juice and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ full.  Bake 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  If desired, brush the cooled cakes with tequila to emphasize the true margarita flavor.

To make the frosting, combine the sugar, egg whites, and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don’t worry, it will come together, though it may take a long time!)  Stir in the lime juice and tequila and mix until fully incorporated and smooth.

Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

Frost the cooled cupcakes with the buttercream.  Garnish with lime zest and lime slices as desired.

Something went terribly wrong for me in this recipe. It could be because I halved it. I didn’t want to make 24 cupcakes, which is what the recipe yields. The cakes themselves turned out okay, but the frosting was all wrong. I don’t have a candy thermometer (this will also become an issue for the other project I was working on for Father’s Day, read on,) so I’m not sure if the temperature of the egg and sugar mixture was the cause of the problem. My butter cream frosting did not come together. I whipped and whipped until the motor of my KitchenAid nearly burned out, but still, butter creamy soup. I blame the heat and humidity. It was about 90 degrees and humid on Sunday, so who knows? I ended up dipping the cupcakes (which did come out a little teeny bit dry) into the frosting and topping each with a lime. A pretty pathetic attempt to cover up an obvious kitchen mishap, but they looked okay. And I suppose they tasted alright, too. The definitely did not distract from the pink in my cheeks as I handed them over to Stu’s dad for a Father’s Day gift.

To read more about my Father’s Day gift misfortunes, click below:

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Last week was my Spring Break, and the weather could not have timed itself more perfectly. With temperatures in the 70s and 80s from Wednesday all the way through Easter weekend, I had summery treats on my mind. I was assigned a dessert for our families Easter dinner, and I wanted to throw something together for Stu’s family for their dinner as well.

I turned to lemons, because I had a bunch of them on hand. (Insert the age old “When Life Hands You Lemons…” here.) I also turned to the Barefoot Contessa, because I can’t get enough of cookbook. I chose first a simple recipe from The Barefoot Contessa At Home.

Lemon Yogurt Cake
from Ina Garten

1 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 and 1/3 cups of sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons of lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8 and 1/2 x 4 and 1/2 x 2 and 1/2 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt into one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, and the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture of the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice and pour over the cake.

I did not eat the cake myself, but did receive some rave reviews from Stu’s whole family. It also got a few comparisons to the lemon cake you can sometimes get at Starbucks, though I’ve never had that either, so I really have no idea. I will say that this was really easy to make, aside from grating the lemon zest, and that it’s quite different, with the addition of the yogurt and oil instead of butter. Much lighter, I’m sure. I’m planning on buying some lemons in bulk this weekend, and probably making a loaf for myself.

For Easter dinner, I felt that Lemon Bars were appropriate. They are lighter and sweeter, but still give you that fresh warm-weather feeling. I looked up a few different recipes, but for one reason or another, ended up with another Ina Garten recipe from the Food Network.

You can find the link for the lemon bars here.

Lemon Bars

I think I may have made them a bit too big, but they were sooo delicious. Oddly enough, these were also compared to Starbucks quality. Not sure how those taste either, but I’ll take the compliment. They were just the right amount of sweet, tart, and thick and creamy. These will have to make a comeback this summer, as they didn’t really travel well on the trip back from Connecticut to Philly.  Still eating up the sticky crumbs though. Yum!

Last weekend Stu and I went to our first Holiday party of the season. It was hosted by a friend who prides himself each year on throwing out a huge Christmas Ham dinner for all friends and family. He asked each guest to bring a dessert or hors d’oeuvres.

I am really bad at picking out appetizers/hors d’oeuvres. I am good at bruscetta, salsa, or any kind of dip, but not great at picky foods. I plan on exploring this area in upcoming weeks as I prepare for a New Years Eve party, but until then I decided to stick with dessert.

I chose Red Velvet cupcakes, as I figured it was the perfect way to kick off the holiday season. Plus I had been reading a lot about Red Velvet in the past few weeks and was curious to see what they turned out like.

I used a recipe by Paula Deen from The Food Network.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

n a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

The cupcakes came out awesome.  The frosting recipe made more than enough and I shoved it all into a Ziploc bag, snipped off the end, and piped it onto each cupcake; slowly and delicately. It was a process, but well worth it. I bought some of those silver edible shiny ball sprinkles from Fantes in the Italian Market, and sprinkled on tiny ones and topped each cake with a single large ball. They came out very fancy! Some people were even afraid to eat them.

After consulting with a Red Velvet specialist at the party, she decided that the recipe could have had more cocoa powder in it. After reviewing the recipe, it only calls for one teaspoon, but could probably use a whole tablespoon for more sweetness. Red Velvet cake can sometimes border on the “cornbread” taste. But the frosting covered any of that up and made these beautiful treats just as delicious and decadent as they appeared to be!

So the Thanksgiving Holiday has come and gone. I found myself caught in a whirlwind of traffic, shopping, cooking, baking, and trying to settle in with friends and family for my short weekend spent at home in Connecticut. I wasn’t sure what the long Holiday weekend would bring, but I can tell you now, that I was not disappointed.

As happenstance would have it, one of my aunts was unable to attend Thanksgiving dinner due to the flu. Poor Aunt Kathy was in charge of the ever-popular Sweet Potato Casserole. Without it, no Thanksgiving dinner is complete. After we got the phone call at 10am that Kathy was a no-go, we got to work. I looked up a recipe, sent my sister out for some sweet potatoes, and got to work.  We had to use a recipe that was quick, yet packed full of flavor. I settled on a recipe from the Food Network, and doubled it.

Sweet Potato Casserole

2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the preparing the pan
2 tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp.  kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and pierce each one 2 or 3 times with a fork. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until tender. Set aside to cool.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F. Scoop the sweet potato out of their skins and into a medium bowl. Discard the skins. Mash the potatoes until smooth. Add the eggs, butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and the pepper to taste. Whisk the mixture until smooth.

Butter an 8-by-8-inch casserole. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the pan and sprinkle the top with the pecans. Bake until puffed, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Casserole

As you can tell from the photo, I had to omit some nuts for Grandma! The potatoes were delicious and creamy, and full of bold Fall flavors. It tasted like a delicious combo of sweet potato and pumpkin pie. We were a little short on the pecans, so I chopped up some walnuts and threw those on as well.  The extra crunch was a great touch!

I also had the opportunity to make some cranberry sauce. I have been wanting to do this for a while, as I heard it was unbearably easy. I found a great recipe from Real Simple, but you can feel free to find your own.

Apple Cranberry Sauce

1 lb. cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup apple cider
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar

In a saucepan, combine cranberries, apple cider, and  sugars.

Simmer until the cranberries begin to pop and the sauce thickens, approximately 12-15 minutes.

Let sit for about 15 minutes before serving.

Apple Cranberry Sauce

For a less sweetened version, substitute water for the apple cider. This went great along side my grandmother’s famous Cranberry Relish.

The Table Spread

The dinner was a hit, aside from the fact that it was dad’s first time roasting a turkey on his own. The whole family contributed a dish, dessert, or appetizer, making it a huge success!  After watching all of the hard work put in by my dad and my family, this year I was thankful that I only had to cook two dishes instead of the whole meal!

Over the weekend I did plenty of cooking and baking, but one of my most successful recipes was an attempt to clear the air of the botched up scones I attempted last week. This time not only did I use the correct amount of milk, but I found a recipe from All Recipes that gave the scones a bit more flavor.

Cranberry Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, chilled and diced
1 cup fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
1/3 cup white sugar
1 grated zest of one orange
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup half-and-half cream
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a separate bowl, toss cranberries with sugar; add to flour mixture along with orange peel and nuts. Mix lightly.

In another bowl, beat together cream and egg; slowly pour into dry ingredients, mixing with rubber scraper until dough forms. Knead dough 4 or 5 times, being careful not to over handle. Divide dough in half. Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Shape each half into a 6 inch circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges. Place scones on lightly greased baking sheets.

Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Cranberry Scones, Photo from All Recipes

I omitted the orange zest as I did not have any oranges on hand. And I used dried cranberries because all of my fresh ones went into the cranberry sauce. for Thanksgiving.  You can substitute orange extract, if you are looking for that citric orange flavor.

These came out great. Just enough balance of moisture and dryness. I used them as a housewarming gift for a friend who just got her own apartment. I’ll be making them again over the next few weeks as Christmas gifts and host/h0stess  gifts for upcoming holiday parties. They also make a great morning breakfast snack and are perfect for this kind of year.

So as I mentioned in my original post about the Great Soup Debate, I ended up choosing the Cream of Winter Squash and Tomato Soup recipe for Thanksgiving dinner. Only to find out moments before cutting the squash in half, that my dad opted out of soup as a first course. His reason? He didn’t have enough matching bowls.

So, I made the soup anyway. I had tomatoes to use before leaving the apartment for four days, and plus I was curious to find out what it turned out like. I made a big batch, enjoyed a hot bowl for dinner on Tuesday night, and froze the rest. Now I have Winter Squash soup for days!

I found the recipe from TheKitchn.com, which is a website I have been frequenting lately for recipes as well as ideas for our kitchen, as Stuart is moving in with me and we are looking to make some changes in the apartment. I highly recommend the site for wonderful seasonal ideas when it comes to food and to decorating

Cream of Winter Squash and Tomato Soup

1 small winter squash of your choice; I used butternut
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper to taste
1 teaspoon paprika
4 cups canned diced tomatoes
3 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
1 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Rub the cavities with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes or until the flesh is tender enough to scoop out. Remove from oven and let cool to a point where you can handle them.

Meanwhile in a large pot saute the onion, garlic, and bay leaf in the olive oil. Scoop the squash from its shell, discarding the skin. Add the roasted squash flesh to the soup pot and saute for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the paprika. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Add the chicken broth. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the bay leaves. Puree the contents of the pot and strain through a mesh sieve. Return to the pot and over low heat, stir in the cream. Gently simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with toasted bread.

Photo courtesy of The Kitchn

The soup was awesome. I was totally disappointed that I couldn’t share it with my family for Thanksgiving. However, more for me! Even Stu, who has been protesting anything with butternut squash lately, enjoyed it! He said that it was the perfect combo of tomato bisque and cream of squash. Awesome.  I am now eating it all week, with warm crusty bread followed by a slice of leftover apple pie. Mmmm-mm!