Smoky Bacon Potato Leek Soup

Dear bacon lovers,

I have found your new favorite soup.  This dish is one I will long for all Spring and Summer as I wait for the return of soup season. The combination of seasonal vegetables with the smoky spices and bacon create a heavenly aroma that’s equally as delicious.  I guarantee you’ll be hooked.  Serve to your whole family or dinner guests this holiday season.

Ingredients

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-3 pieces bacon, chopped

-1/2 yellow onion, diced

-1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped into medium-size pieces

-1 large leek or two small leeks, tops removed, white parts sliced width-wise

-4 cloves garlic, minced

-2 dried bay leaves

-1-2 teaspoons paprika (I eyeball it)

-1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika (I eyeball it)

-1-2 teaspoons salt and pepper

-1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

-1 teaspoon thyme leaves

-4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

-1 tablespoon heavy cream

-chives for garnish (optional)

-croutons or crushed cheesy crackers for garnish (optional)

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I crumbled these on top and they were delicious

Instructions

  1. Heat large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil.  When hot, add onions and bacon, and cook until browned. Add some paprika, smoked paprika, and pepper.

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2. Add the leeks, potato, garlic and thyme.  Sprinkle with more paprika, smoked paprika, pepper, and this time some salt.  Cook five minutes.

 

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3. Pour broth into the pot and add bay leaves.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until  the vegetables are soft.  Remove the bay leaves and let the soup cool for at five minutes.

 

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4. Transfer to a blender (in batches if necessary) and add the cream.  Blend until smooth. Serve in bowls and garnish.

 

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Stay warm this Fall with my new favorite soup!

butternut-squash

Ingredients:

(Serves 4)

-1 butternut squash

-1 yellow onion, chopped

-1 small Granny Smith apple, chopped

-1 small Gala apple, chopped

-5 thyme sprigs

-2 tablespoons butter, melted

-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

-1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

-1 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

-salt and pepper

-4 cups chicken broth

Instructions:

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  

2.  Place squash in the microwave for about 4-5 minutes so that it’s softened and easier/safer to cut.  Remove both ends of the squash, then cut in half lengthwise.  Peel the tough, outer skin and remove the “guts” from the inside of the squash.  Continue to cut the squash into smaller, bite-size pieces.

3.  Place the squash in a bowl with the melted butter and thyme leaves, then generously salt and pepper.  Place on the lined baking sheet and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, flipping halfway through.  The squash should be tender enough to pierce with a fork at the end of cooking.

4.  When the squash has cooked for 20 minutes, heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat, and add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and optional sugar (generally I wouldn’t recommend sugar, but since this is a lot of soup, it’s hardly any sugar per serving).  Add the apples, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Cook for about 20 minutes, or until soft and fragrant. 

5.  In batches, add the cooked squash and onion/apple mixture to the blender along with a cup of chicken broth with each batch.  Blend until smooth.  Continue to add the squash, onions, apples and broth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with thyme.  Enjoy!

Healthy Holiday Appetizers

I hosted my first Thanksgiving this year and tried to select appetizers that were both healthy and delicious.  Since we are still in a holiday month, I thought it would be nice to share some healthy appetizer ideas to try at your own holiday party.

  1. Shrimp with cocktail sauce
  2. Vegetables with homemade cucumber dip
  3. Soup shots

While cheese and crackers are tasty, there’s such an overload of unhealthy options at parties and events during the holidays that I think it’s nice to serve your guests some healthier, homemade options that are easy to make and are total crowd pleasers.

  1. Shrimp with cocktail sauce is definitely a crowd pleaser. At my Thanksgiving I sautéed the defrosted shrimp for five minutes or so in a skillet with olive oil over medium heat until the shrimp turned pink. Meanwhile, mix the cocktail sauce in a little bowl. For cocktail sauce all you need is ketchup,Worcestershire sauce, horseradish and a squeeze of lemon. These condiments should all be gluten-free, but may depend on the brand you buy. Mix about 1/2 cup ketchup with 2 tablespoons horseradish, a squeeze of lemon and dash of Worcestershire. I honestly played around with my measurements and just got a bit creative until it tasted perfect. To serve place the small bowl of sauce in the middle of a large plate with the shrimp surrounding the bowl on the plate.
  2. Chopped veggies with dip is simple and easy for guests to munch on. Select your vegetables and chop them the day before your party to take one thing off your plate the day of the event. For my homemade cucumber dip, simply combine 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt with finely diced cucumber, chopped fresh dill, chopped green onions and some salt. Mix these ingredients together and serve with the vegetables. Such a healthy alternative to store-bought dip!Tzatziki-700x350_zqqnc9.jpg
  3. I love Pinterest. Lately I’ve been seeing soup served in shot glasses with cut up grilled cheeses as appetizers. I think this idea is super cute, and soup is a great thing to serve guests during these chilly months. Depending on the soup, soup can be pretty simple to make, and can also be made a day or two before your event. Try my roasted carrot soup recipe. It’s so yummy and can be served with cut up panini or grilled cheese.tomato-soup-grilled-cheese-I-howsweeteats.com-8

 

Three Healthy Meals and One Dessert To Impress Your Guests This Holiday

It’s important to eat with the seasons, and with the cold winter months rolling in, it’s time to start eating warmer, more grounding foods. Below are four simple holiday recipes (also budget-friendly!) that should keep meal prep and cook times to a minimum so that you can fully enjoy your holiday season with friends and family. These dishes could either be served together as one delicious four course meal, or perhaps separately before the big Thanksgiving or holiday meal. I would serve the salad first, then serve the soup and vegetable galette together. Obviously save the dessert for last… or don’t!

Winter Salad

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-1 bag fresh spinach

-1 container of pomegranate arils

-1-2 handfuls of dried cranberries

-chopped pecans

-1 pear, diced

-feta cheese

-balsamic

1. Wash the spinach, pat dry and put into large salad bowl.

2. Add the pomegranate arils, cranberries, chopped nuts, pear and feta cheese. I like to add the juice from the pomegranate container.

3. Personally I find that the salad doesn’t need much dressing if you add juice from the pomegranate arils, but balsamic would be a good choice too. Serve and enjoy!

original recipe: autumn chopped salad

Roasted Carrot Soup

-6 organic carrots
-1 potato
-1 yellow onion
-4 cloves garlic
-chicken stock (I used veggie stock or you can just use water. You can also add a bullion cube or Italian seasoning for flavor)
-extra virgin olive oil
-salt and pepper
   1. Heat oven to 425 F. Peel the carrots and cut them into bite-size chunks. Cut the potato and onion into smaller chunks. Place the carrots, potato, onion and garlic in a baking dish with olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and roast for 10-15 minutes, until it starts to smell delicious.
    2. Remove dish and place the roasted veggies in a pot. Fill the pot with the chicken stock until it just covers the vegetables. Throw in a bullion cube if desired. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to a simmer and cover with a lid for an hour.
    3. Place contents of pot in a blender and blend until it’s a smooth soup. Enjoy!
Vegetable Galette
(serves 2, or serves 4 as appetizer)
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-1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
-2 small, yellow squash cut into thin circles
-3 tablespoons pesto
-1/3 cup ricotta cheese
-extra virgin olive oil
-salt and pepper
-flour or whole wheat flour (could also use a GF flour, like coconut flour)
   1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
   2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter or on a cutting board. Lay puff pastry sheet out on top of the flour. Use a rolling pin to spread the sheet out a bit.
   3. Spread ricotta over the puff pastry sheet. Then the pesto.
   4. Lay the thinly cut squash circles on top of the ricotta and pesto. Fold up the sides of the puff pastry.
   5. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper the squash.
   6. Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
original recipe: The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson
And finally, for dessert…
Black Bean Brownies
(boyfriend approved!)
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-1 15oz. can beans, drained, rinsed well and patted dry
-2 large eggs
-3 tablespoons coconut oil
-3/4 cups cacao powder
-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/2 cup raw sugar
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking power
-optional: chocolate chips or crushed nuts
   1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
   2. Lightly grease a baking dish (8×8 works)
   3. Add beans to a food processor and puree. Then add the remaining ingredients, except the optional chocolate chips and nuts.
   4. If the batter seems too thick, then add a little water and pulse again. The batter should not be too runny.
   5. Distribute the batter into the greased dish and add optional chocolate chips and nuts.
   6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Your brownies are ready to serve!  I poured a little unsweetened almond milk over mine to give them a little moisture. Enjoy!
original recipe: black bean brownies