Butternut Squash-Carrot Soup with Pork “Croutons”

Have you ever noticed the recipes in the Williams-Sonoma catalog? I always notice them while flipping through the pages but haven’t ever made one. Well, we got a new holiday catalog last week and when I saw this recipe, I knew we had to try it. It’s a great version of a butternut squash soup with added depth of flavor from the carrot and apple in it along with the butternut squash. We went “all in” with the recipe and even made the pork belly “croutons” but they were so fatty, I think next time we’ll just go with pieces of bacon as garnish.

Butternut Squash-Carrot Soup with Pork “Croutons”
from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen

1 large butternut squash, about 3 lb., peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbs plus 1 tsp. olive oil
10-oz. slab pork belly, cut into batons about 1/2 by 1/2 by 1 inch
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
6C chicken stock
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 C heavy cream
2 Tbs chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley Preheat an oven to 450°F.

In a large bowl, stir together the squash, carrots, the 2 Tbs. olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are browned and tender, about 45 minutes. Set aside.

In a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the 1 tsp. olive oil. Add the pork belly and cook, stirring occasionally, until rendered and browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Discard the fat in the pot and wipe out the pot with paper towels.

In the same pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and apple and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the stock, thyme sprigs and bay leaf, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

Working in batches, puree the apple-stock mixture with the roasted vegetables in a blender until smooth (or, just use your immersion blender right in the pot like we did!). Return the soup to the pot and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the cream and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Garnish with the parsley and pork belly croutons and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.


Brie en Croute

Happy (day after) Thanksgiving – hope everyone had a great day of eating and giving thanks, I sure did!

We made a little brie en croute to nosh on before our Thanksgiving meal, so I thought I would share the recipe. This is one of the easiest appetizers to make for a holiday party that make your guests go wild because it’s that delicious!
Brie en Croute

1 sheet of puff pastry (we love the puff pastry from Trader Joe’s)
1/2 C fruit preserves (this time we used fig preserves, but use whatever flavor you like – apricot, raspberry, etc…)
1 (13.2 oz) wheel of brie

Thaw pastry sheet at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix egg and water to create egg wash.

Unfold pastry sheet on lightly floured surface. Roll into 14 inch square. Cut off corners to make a circle. Spread preserves to within 1 inch of pastry edge, lay brie on top. Brush edge of circle with egg mixture. Fold two opposite sides over cheese. Trim remaining two sides to 2 inch from edge of cheese. Fold these two sides onto the round. Press edges to seal. Place seam-side down on baking sheet. Decorate top with pastry scraps if desired. I used my mini fall cookie cutters and extra puff pastry to decorate the top and make it more “Thanksgiving-ish.” Brush with egg mixture and bake 20 minutes or until golden. Let stand 1 hour. Serve with crackers.


The Nursery!

I’ve already shared pictures of the special craft project for the room, the great rug, and the colorful sheet which inspired the colors of the room. And now here it is, the rest of the adorable nursery for our beautiful baby!

A few highlights…

Interesting ceiling light for the baby to look at while she’s in her crib


Super cute wrist rattles used as curtain tie-backs


White flower wall clings to decorate an otherwise useless wall


Cool penguin art by a great local artist Greg Stones


A bookcase specially painted by my Dad to perfectly match the hot pink in her sheet. A great place to sleep and someday play for our baby!


Who doesn’t love dipping bread into melted cheese?

We had a block of Jarlsberg cheese that came in a great gift basket we received as a “congratulations on your baby” gift so we decided to make a traditional cheese fondue for dinner this weekend. Jarlsberg cheese is a mild, buttery, nutty, cheese from Norway, we mixed in a little Swiss cheese as well. We pulled the recipe from this great fondue recipe book we have: Fondue by Rick Rodgers. It has all sorts of traditional cheese fondue recipes as well as fried fondue (cooking ingredients in hot oil), Asian hot pot (cooking ingredients in hot broth), and of course dessert fondue! I highly recommend it for all fondue enthusiasts – you will make great use of your fondue pot!

Classic Swiss Fondue
from Fondue by Rick Rodgers

1 garlic clove, peeled
1 C dry white wine
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
5 ½ C, shredded.Suggested Gruyere, Emmentaler, Appenzeller
4 Tsp cornstarch
1 Tbs kirsch
A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Rub the inside of a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan with the garlic; discard the garlic. Add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a bare simmer over medium heat.

In a medium bowl, toss the cheeses with the cornstarch. A handful at a time, stir the cheese mixture into the wine, stirring the first batch until it is almost completely melted before adding another. The fondue can bubble gently, but do not boil. Stir in the kirsch and season with the nutmeg and pepper.

Transfer to a cheese fondue pot and keep warm over a fondue burner. Serve immediately with dipping ingredients.

Suggested items to dip:
French bread
Baby carrots


mmm Pumpkin

I am so pleased that I gave birth in time to have a good Pumpkin Beer this fall before the season passed. Here, I have a delicious cinnamon rimmed pint glass filled with my favorite Shipyard Pumpkinhead Beer. It’s so easy to prep your glass before you pour your beer – just combine a little fine white sugar and a dash of cinnamon. Then, moisten the rim of the glass with water and sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Then enjoy each sip!

What Am I Going to Do With All This Paella?

My in-laws came to visit this weekend to meet our new baby girl. This allowed my hubby and I to have a little time to cook a delicious meal together so we whipped up a batch of paella for dinner! We adapted our recipe from Ina’s, which I have shared below. It’s a great, easy recipe and makes a TON of paella so make sure you serve to a crowd!
Easy Lobster Paella
from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

1/4C olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 red bell peppers, cored and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
2 Tbs minced garlic (4 to 6 cloves)
2C white basmati rice
5C chicken stock
1/2 Tsp saffron threads, crushed
1/4 Tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbs salt
1 Tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 C licorice-flavored liqueur (recommended: Pernod)
1 1/2 pounds cooked lobster meat (we substituted shrimp and mussels)
1 pound cooked sausage
1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas
1 tablespoon parsley
Lemons, cut into wedges

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof dutch oven.Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the bell peppers and cook over medium heat for 5 more minutes. Lower the heat, add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the rice, chicken stock, saffron, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and place it in the oven. After 15 minutes, stir the rice gently with a wooden spoon, and return it to the over to bake uncovered for 10 to 15 more minutes, until the rice is fully cooked.

Transfer the paella back to the stove top and add the licorice-flavored liqueur. Cook the paella over medium heat for 1 minute, until the liqueur is absorbed by the rice. Turn off the heat and add the lobster, kielbasa, and peas and stir gently. Cover the paella, and allow it to steam for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley, garnish with lemon wedges, and serve hot.