This creamy squash soup is perfect for fall evenings in! Plus, it makes a great Thanksgiving side dish!
A story about the soup:
If you want to hear a little bit about my life, scroll down. If you’re just here for soup, stay here. I found this recipe in a copy of Food Network Magazine and knew almost instantly I had to make it. For one, who doesn’t love creamy squash soup? Two, look at those garnishes! The roasted broccoli, the crunchy croutons, the salty pumpkin seeds? Not only are they beautiful, they add the perfect textural contrast to the velvety texture of the base. Soup has this incredible ability to warm you up, both figuratively and literally. It has this almost therapeutic power to it. Even on my worst days, a bowl of soup has the ability to take me back to a world and a life that wasn’t as scary, complicated or lonely. This soup is no different. I made it during a time of true uncertainty and I remember feeling a little better every time the spoon hit my lips. It may sound silly, and it probably is, but this soup helped me out of a pretty serious funk.
And a little bit about me:
It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is two weeks away. I mean, in all honesty, it’s hard to believe the end of the year is just a month and a half away. While the rest of my friends are all “CHRISTMAS! SNOW! COOKIES!” I’m just trying desperately to keep my head afloat as I look for a job, wait for an offer to get accepted on a house and sort through where the next year of my life is going to take me.
I do know one thing, it’s going to involve a heck of a lot less traveling. Travel is my life and it fuels every single part of who I am. And as exciting as it was to pack up and leave for a new country and a new city every other week, it made a few other parts of my life nearly impossible to manage. From the outside, my life looked perfect. I was always somewhere different, experiencing an exotic place so many people only dream of going to. But peel back that wrapper and you’d see that my life was so far beyond perfection. It was a crumbling mess.
Without divulging too many personal details in a post about soup, I will say the decision to stay put in Chicago for the foreseeable future wasn’t an easy one. Even though I felt the world falling to pieces around me, I still loved travel. Partly because it was an escape. If my life at home was a mess, I knew in a day or two I’d be in Australia, China, Spain or Norway and wouldn’t have to face those issues for a few weeks. In a way, I was running away. I also truly love to travel. There’s nothing I love more than stepping off a plane and immersing myself almost immediately in a world so different than my own.
As life does, though, it all caught up and I found even the escape to be nearly overwhelming. I was focusing on everything I left at home when I was abroad, making it impossible to even enjoy the times I had wandering around a new country with new people. That’s why I’ve decided to tuck away my passport and plant my feet firmly on the ground. At least for the next few weeks. What next year will bring nobody knows, but I know one thing – Chicago has my heart and I’m enjoying every second exploring this incredibly vibrant and beautiful city of mine.
Creamy Squash & Carrot Soup
Serves 4 – 6. Recipe adapted from Food Network.
Prep time: 15 minutes.
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 butternut squash, chopped
- 1/2 acorn squash, chopped
- 3 cups broccoli florets
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1 scallion, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper**
- 5 carrots, shredded and chopped
- 15 ounce can chick peas, drained
- 1 can (14 ounce) low-fat coconut milk
- 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup water
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or other nuts)
- French bread, cooked and cut into bite-size pieces
**optional. I added it for heat, but you can omit.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with foil. Place the squash and broccoli on the sheet (evenly distributed). Toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Roast for about 20 – 25 minutes, stopping to toss the vegetables after 10 minutes. You want the vegetables to be fork tender.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallots and scallions and cook for about a minute. Mix in the ginger, garlic and crushed red pepper, heat for about another minute. Add in the carrots and cook until just softened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the chick peas, coconut milk, vegetable broth and water. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes.
- Mix in the 3/4 of the squash, saving about a one cup for the garnish. Cook for another 5 – 10 minutes, or until warm. Remove from heat. With either a tabletop blender or immersion blender, blend the soup until creamy. Serve with a handful of broccoli florets, remaining squash, pumpkin seeds and crispy bread.
Nutritional information per serving:
Fat: 16 grams
Carbohydrates: 48.45 grams
Fiber: 13.4 grams
Protein: 10.5 grams
Welcome Autumn with a big batch of this warm and cozy spicy chicken, vegetable and noodle soup!
As I’m writing this, the ship I’m on is plunging to and fro in waves that roar over 3 meters above the surface of the freezing Atlantic Ocean. Although the movement is sporadic and ravenous, it’s also a little contrived. As soon as we rise above after hitting one, we plunder back into the icy waters. The rhythmic motions haven’t left me seasick, but instead feeling incredibly at peace. The solitude the ocean brings, even when you’re amongst 125 other people, is like therapy to a writer.
Don’t get me wrong, at first, the movements are jarring. You find yourself being thrown around and completely off-kilter. Something happens to you when you lose your balance. In a way, you lose your mind. However, when you let it kind of consume you, you fall into the movements of the waves and it all starts to feel normal, natural even.
There’s truly no place I’d rather be than on the water. Maybe it’s because I grew up with a lake as my playground. I’d spend every waking second I could at my cottages on Lake Erie. I’d swim, sail, boat, jet-ski – if it was on the water, you can believe I was there. I think that’s why I feel so at peace when I can see the glisten of the sun against a body of water.
However, that being said, the charms of rocking back and forth for 40+ hours are starting to fade. As my new British friend on board would say, it quickly sends you into a spiral of madness. As much as I love the water, not having my feet firmly planted on dry land for the better part of 3 days is a bit jarring, and I’m actually craving solid ground in a way I didn’t think I would. I always prided myself on having strong sea legs, but there’s even a limit to my love of water and I *might* just be reaching it. Thankfully land is on the horizon and a hike is calling my name this afternoon.
Sailing, boats and Fjords aside, let’s briefly talk about this bowl of cozy heaven in front of you. Chicken soup is an institution in my house, and even though I’m a vegetarian now, I’ll always remember the feelings of comfort it brought me whenever I was feeling sick, sad, down, blue or cold. Everyone has a version of this soup, and I’ve got quite a few (one with green tea, a classic and a kicked up Mexican version). This one, though, is a little different. It’s a blend of standard chicken noodle with hearty vegetable.
This is a real “stick to your guts” kind of soup without add any extra weight at all. The noodles, which are homemade, add energy boosting carbs, while the chicken and mushrooms give you a healthy dose of protein. The broth, which is kicked up with a bit of jalapeno, is made with heaps of herbs to help fight away seasonal colds. It’s a jack of all trades, much like myself.
The best part? It’s easy as sin, keeping with the theme of this week. The only laborious part, of course, are the noodles, but you can easily make those (with this rustic recipe or recipe with spinach) or buy them at the store. Whatever fits your schedule do it. Just know that after one spoonful of this healthy, delicious soup and you’ll too be transported to your happy place. Whether that’s on the water like me. on a beach, in front of a roaring fire or next to a mountain.
Spicy Chicken, Vegetable & Noodle Soup
Serves about 8. Pasta recipe from The Little Kitchen.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 60+ minutes
Total time: About 80 minutes
For the soup:
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 12 ounces baby bell mushrooms, sliced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped & seeded
- 1 large zucchini, sliced and then quartered
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 3 cans (about 14 1/2 ounces each) low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes (not drained)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 whole roasted chicken, cooked and shredded (can sub in rotisserie chicken if you’d like)
- Few sprigs of fresh thyme
- Few sprigs of fresh rosemary
- Few springs of fresh sage
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bean sprouts for garnish
- Cilantro for garnish
For the noodles:
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- 2 – 4 tablespoons water
- To make the pasta, place the flours, salt, eggs and water into the bowl of a standing mixer. Turn on medium and start mixing until fully combined. Note, if the dough is too dry, add additional water, but in teaspoon increments. After about 2 – 3 minutes of mixing, attach the dough hook. Mix for about 2 minutes. Then remove the dough from the bowl and place on a very floured surface. Using your hands, knead until soft and elastic. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for about 5 – 10 minutes.
- Once rested, cut the dough into chunks. Fit your KitchenAid with a pasta making roller attachment. Using a rolling pin, roll out one chunk of dough at a time (careful to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out between use). Carefully push the rolled out dough through the roller. I did this about 3 times to get a very smooth and thin sheet of pasta. Once you’re happy with the thickness, attach the spaghetti and fettuccine attachment. Carefully push the rolled out pasta through that until you get strands.
- Using a pasta drying rack, dry the pasta noodles until ready to use.
- To make the soup, heat the olive oil over medium high head. Add the onions and cook for about 2 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for about one minute. Add the butter and stir in the mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, celery, jalapeno and bell pepper. Cook on medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until the vegetables start to tenderize.
- Gradually add in the broth, diced tomatoes and lime juice, stirring well. Mix in the fresh herbs and salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 8 – 12 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add in the chicken and simmer another 2 – 4 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta in batches and cook until al-dente. Rinse in cold water and add to the large bowl of soup or serve separately. Add some bean sprouts & cilantro for garnish and enjoy!
Nutritional information per serving (about 1 cup of soup):
Fat: 3.8 grams
Carbohydrates: 12 grams
Fiber: .5 grams
Protein: 3.5 grams
Y’all, it’s pumpkin whoopie pie season and I’m not even mad about it.
About these cookies:
Actually, pumpkin whoopie pie season started two months ago but I was in Croatia eating truffles so…I know, my life. However, now that I’m home for the entire month of November, I’m catching up on all the things i’ve missed – like pumpkin desserts. And cream cheese frosting. And cookies. And cake. And pie. Good thing I chose TODAY to go Paleo, right?
WRONG. All I want to do is eat these cookies, thankfully I made them weeks ago and there’s not even a morsel left to remember. Because I’m weak and I’d probably eat 4 in a row and then force myself to go to Orange Theory again tonight out of shamerage. It’s a thing, google it. My mom, the ultimate cookie baker, said these are one of the best things i’ve made all year, and after taking a big bite (for photo purposes, obvi), I had to agree. They’re most definitely one of the fluffiest, sweetest and most decadent cookies I’ve made to date.
The thing with whoopies is they’re almost always left off the desert table because they’re not the most attractive. Unlike thumprints or pinwheels, which are radiant and beautiful, whoopies aren’t the most festive. However, that’s no reason not to indulge in these cakey little bites this holiday season. Add some styling, like I did. Serve them with some fresh star of anise or roll them in crushed walnuts or even edible glitter to give them a pop of color. I’m all about the accessorizing, even in food. Do yourself a favor, make these for Thanksgiving. Whether you style them or not, they’ll be the biggest hit on your pie table. You might have to seperate them from the apple because nobody is going to touch that pie after trying these. And we all know how jealous apple gets.
Beyond whoopies, I’m basically just sitting on pins and needles because we’re still patiently (cough not really) waiting for the offer to get accepted on the most beautiful two-bedroom condo in all of Chicago. But, I’ve been pinning all of the rain showers and claw-foot tubs, subway tiles and vintage sinks in the world to get ready for it. See, the place is actually in AMAZING condition, but the main bathroom needs to be gutted. Completely. So, we’re going to install a rain shower (insert heart eye emoji here), subway tile, a vintage sink and some cute industrial lighting fixtures to bring it all together. I’ve never had a place that needed a reno like this, so I’m beyond excited for the potential possiblity.
If we get it, of course. So please, cross all of your appendages. It’s in such a fantastic part of the city and is within walking distance to great cafes, an OrangeTheory, Whole Foods and everything in between. And, you know, it would help me get out of my parents house. Because at nearly 32, it just isn’t cute anymore.
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Yields about 10 medium – large sandwiches.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 14 – 16 minutes
For the cookies:
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- Dash of salt
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 15 ounce can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the filling:
- 6 ounces light cream cheese
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- Dash of cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt together. In another bowl, mix the brown sugar, canola oil, applesauce, pumpkin puree, egg and vanilla. Once mixed, add in the flour mixture a cup at a time and stir until fully combined.
- Using a spoon, scoop the dough onto the sheet. The cookies will spread a little, so place them about 1 1/2 – 2 inches apart. If you want the tops to be smooth, use a piping bag or smooth them out with your hand. I left them as is and kind of dig the almost oatmeal like texture.
- Bake for about 12 – 16 minutes, or until they spring back at the touch. Place on a wire cooling rack and let cool.
- Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and cinnamon together until thick and creamy.
- Once the cookies have cooled, add a large dollop of frosting on the top of half of them and place another cookie on top to make a sandwich. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!
Nutritional information per cookie sandwich:
Fat: 16 grams
Carbohydrates: 34.3 grams
Fiber: 1.23 grams
Protein: 5 grams
Who doesn’t love a scone? I realized today that I actually don’t have any recipes for scones on my site. Not even one. That seems sacrilegious. How can a lover of these buttery, soft and delicate pastries not even have one recreation on her site?
So, that was immediately rectified, especially when Riondo Prosecco reached out to partner. They asked for a recipe that would pair nicely with their super crisp and bubbly Prosecco, and I knew almost instantly it had to be a scone. Even though I sip on Prosecco any time of day, it always reminds me of brunch. And despite being a definite Bellini girl, I have to say I sometimes just enjoy a simple glass of bubbles with my favorite morning meal.
What makes these scones such a perfect pair with a glass of Riondo is simple – they’re beaming with fresh summer citrus (thanks to the lemon addition) and have mouthfuls of plump, juicy raspberries in almost every bite. Pair that with a glass (or coffee mug, flute, wine glass or solo cup) of Prosecco and you’ve got the ultimate marriage of flavors.
Now, these scones aren’t low fat, and that’s because I don’t think you can really get that buttery, flakey consistency when you sub with applesauce. If you don’t mind a chewier scone, by all means, sub away! I just wanted the texture to be as close to an English bakery as humanly possible. I did add in Greek yogurt and low-fat milk, however, and used whole wheat flour instead of white.
Whether you’re hosting an outdoor brunch with your girls or simply enjoying these last dog days of summer, these scones and this Prosecco are the ultimate treat! Want more inspiration? Try these Riondo Prosecco Cocktails!
Whole Wheat Raspberry Lemon Scones
Yields about 8 – 10 scones (depending on size)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: About 14 minutes
- 2 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- Dash of salt
- 3 tablespoons lemon zest
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
- ¼ cup low-fat milk
- ¼ cup raspberry nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- ¼ cup chopped almonds
- 1 cup fresh raspberries
- Easy glaze + chopped almonds for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, mix the whole wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest together. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles sand.
- In another bowl, whisk the milk, Greek yogurt and almond extract together. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, alternating with the chopped almonds. Carefully stir in the raspberries.
- On a floured surface, gently knead the dough and form into a large circle (add a little more milk if too dry). Cut into 8 – 10 triangles.
- Distribute the scones onto the baking trays. Bake for about 14 minutes or until golden brown. Let chill on a wire rack.
- Once chilled, glaze and garnish with chopped almonds.
Nutritional information per scone:
Fat: 14.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 37 grams
Fiber: 2.4 grams
Protein: 6 grams
These deconstructed pulled pork carnitas plates are an easy, low carb weeknight dinner idea!
*NOTE: This recipe was made and tested before I became a vegetarian. Although I don’t eat meat anymore, I plan on sharing a few more meat-centric dishes that were made during that timeframe. Please see options in the recipe if you want to make these vegetarian!
Since taking almost a full year off food blogging, I’ve acquired *a few* recipes in my arsenal that I just never shared. Even though I wasn’t updating this little piece of the internet, I was still cooking, recipe testing and, well, eating of course. Travel, life changes, a move and a focus on my career just made it hard to share them as soon as I made them. But, lucky for you, I’ve got all of these mouthwatering recipes written up and re-tested so I can bring them to your faces IMMEDIATELY.
Like these deconstructed pulled pork plates. I originally got the idea for these after noshing on amazing pulled pork tacos from a joint in Charleston. Weighing a solid 35 pounds more than I do now, I was really trying to lose weight and be more conscience of what I was putting in my body. Which for me at the time meant low-carb. Now that I’m doing HIIT workouts 6 times a week, carbs have become my best friend. But for a girl who didn’t move and could barely run a mile a year ago, carbs were the devil’s work. Which is where these plates came to fruition.
I actually remade these last week and my family ate them EXACTLY as pictured – no tortillas or crispy taco shells in sight. Just meat and veggies with a bit of rice. My little brother, who is basically a body builder in training, demolished 3 plates of these in a sitting. And I can’t blame him! They’re loaded with protein and naturally low in carbs, things he absolutely needs for his 360 pound squat workouts.
Not only are they healthy (and good for you), they’re pretty darn beautiful, don’t you think? Even though I’m a strict vegetarian, I can still appreciate the beauty a nicely cooked collection of meat can bring to a plate. The pork was cooked so simply – in a crock pot with just a few select spices. You cook on low for 8 hours and then the meat just falls apart when you shred it with two forks. Plus, the recipe makes HEAPS – so you can easily stash some away for later and stuff into a sandwich or mix with pasta.
To round out the meal, I’d suggest pairing it with some homemade cilantro brown rice. Or just eat three plates of it like my little brother did and immediately go squat 6,000 pounds. I mean, whatever floats your boat.
***To make these vegetarian, sub the pork for crispy baked tofu!
Deconstructed Pulled Pork Carnitas Plates
Pork yields about 12 servings. This recipe makes about 4 – 6 plates.
Prep time: 15 – 20 minutes
Cook time: 6 – 8 hours (for the pork) and 15 minutes (vegetables)
For the pork: ***
- 1 5 pound pork shoulder
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
- 1 habanero, seeded and chopped
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning (or a Mexican spice blend)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the blistered peppers:
- 2 large bell peppers, seeded and sliced
- 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the plates:
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 1 can diced chilis, drained
- 2 large sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed with a dash of salt & pepper
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 2 avocados, seeded and diced
- 1 serving cilantro lime rice
- To make the pork, rub the oil all over the shoulder. Liberally coat the entire pork shoulder in Mexican spices. In the basin of the slow cooker, mix the red onion, garlic, jalapeño, habanero, orange juice and water together. Place the pork shoulder (fat side down) into the crock pot. Cook on low for about 8 – 9 hours, or until meat is tender (it will fall off the bone when you try to shred it with two forks). Reserve 1/2 cup of the liquid and skim the fat off the top.
- Remove the meat from the crock pot and place on a large cutting board. Using two forks, shred the meat. To serve, heat the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 of the meat and drizzle with juice. Heat for about 2 – 4 minutes or until slightly crispy. Repeat until all the meat is cooked.
- For the peppers, preheat the broiler. Place the peppers on a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Broil for about 10 minutes, turning after 5, or until the skin are blistered (they’ll appear blackened in spots). Remove from heat.
- To make the plates, divide the pork, cherry tomatoes, blistered peppers, sweet potatoes, onion, avocado, cilantro and rice. Serve with your favorite taco seasoning, hot sauce or just a dash of salt and pepper!
Nutritional information per serving:
Fat: 22 grams
Carbohydrates: 45 grams
Fiber: 4.2 grams
Protein: 29 grams