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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stand-by's and a Thanksgiving side

Yesterday was a busy day. Actually the past two months have been busy, but yesterday was one of those days where I absolutely did not want to eat out again but didn't have a whole lot of fresh foods at home to make a decent meal out of. Then I remembered one of my "stand-by" meals that I had stashed in the freezer. I'm sure you know what a "stand-by" meal is: something that you keep the ingredients for on hand at all times and it can be quickly prepared. For most it's spaghetti or soup. Easy enough. Maybe even breakfast for dinner. That's always a great one. My favorite lately is all things I get at Trader Joe's (no surprise there, I'm sure). This is what I keep on hand in the freezer for days such as yesterday:
TJ's tempura chicken w/ sweet and sour sauce
TJ's Beijing style frozen vegetables
TJ's premade frozen brown jasmine rice
TJ's chicken egg rolls
TJ's sweet and sour sauce

Everything, except for the sweet and sour sauce, can be found in the frozen section. It's kind of like one of those stir-fry kits, except it's actually good. Those kits never seem to be enough, and the vegetables always end up soft and soggy. This works out way better, in my opinion. I usually fry the chicken up in a separate pan than the vegetables (and I use grapeseed oil or sesame oil...something that can be cooked at a high temp), heat the rice while the chicken is cooking, and then mix some of the sweet and sour sauce and the beijing sauce from the veggies and throw it all together at the last minute. I happened to have fresh broccoli and cabbage on hand last night, so I threw some of that in as well with the other veggies. The boys love it and it's usually the perfect amount for our family of four. It's also quick to make.

What's your "stand-by?" I'd love to know.

On another note, I made my sweet potato casserole today for Thanksgiving. I make it the way my mother has always made it; with a pecan praline topping. Let me tell you, it's way better than the marshmallow stuff. I've had some pretty bad casseroles, and if sweet potatoes are not done right, they can be downright disgusting. David and his sister swore they hated sweet potatoes, but once they had them cooked this way, they both say it's one of their favorite holiday dishes. I would give you my exact recipe, but I remembered Pioneer Woman makes hers the same way, so I'll just direct you to her recipe. This is also known as "I'm too lazy to get off the dang couch so I'm ripping somone else's recipe off and giving it to you." Seriously, though, it's a common way to make the casserole here in the south, and her recipe is almost exactly the same as mine.
One thing I've done differently with it this year is I've used canned organic sweet potato puree from TJ's. We'll see if it tastes as good but I was sure happy to not have to boil and mash the potatoes. Huge time saver there.

Sweet Potato Casserole that you'll actually like!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Curried Butternut Squash Soup


As I said in my previous post, I had two butternut squashes on hand from the CSA box. Other than making babyfood when my babies were babies, I don't recall ever making anything with butternut squash. It's not that I don't enjoy eating them, I've just been intimidated a little by them. One of my favorite pastas is butternut squash ravioli. It's hard to come by, but if I'm ever at a restaurant that serves it, I will most definitely get it. In fact, my favorite dish in all of Atlanta is Zuzza at Figo. Zucca is a divine butternut squash ravioli with a raddichio cream sauce. I cannot go to Figo and not get it. I salivate as I drive by the restaurant just thinking about Zucca. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!

O.K., I'll stop going on about my little obsession.

Anyway, I'm certainly not going to attempt to make it; I'll leave that up to the experts.
But I had to come up with something to do with the butternut babies I had on hand.

After poking around online, I found this recipe by Ellie Krieger:

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Perfect. Right up my alley. I've watched her show before on the Food network; Healthy Appetite, and she comes up with some pretty good recipes. I had everything I needed, so I sat the boys down in front of the TV with their lunches, and I got busy in the kitchen making a huge batch of the soup. And yes, I do use the TV as a babysitter at times. Well, a lot of the time if I'm honest.

The result...delish! And I mean it. I'm trying to make myself wait until dinnertime to eat a whole bowl, but I keep sneaking by the pot and dishing out little spoonfuls. Tonight, I'll top it with a dallop of yogurt (greek yogurt) as the recipe suggests. I know some are afraid of curry...don't be. This is just a rich, flavorful and slightly sweet soup that is perfect for this season.

I can't wait until dinnertime tonight!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (2 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more, to taste
2 tablespoons honey
4 teaspoons plain low-fat yogurt, for garnish
Directions
Heat oil over medium heat in a 6-quart stockpot. Add onions and garlic and saute until soft but not brown, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add the butternut squash, broth, curry powder and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until squash is tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat stir in honey and puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender until smooth. Season with salt, to taste.
Ladle into serving bowls and add a dollop of yogurt.