Butternut Squash and Celery Root Soup and trying something new

Butternut Squash Soup
This is one of the best soups I’ve made all winter.  Previously, butternut squash soups were borderline too sweet for me – I could never finish an entire batch and would guiltily throw the leftovers down the sink.  I’ve made this version three times, now, and each time, we eat it all!  It doesn’t get boring – the flavors are so complex and balanced, thanks to that crazy looking celery root.  It’s perfect!  It’s also incredibly filling and very low fat, so I think it’s quite possibly the most wonderful food to have when you’re watching what you eat, but don’t want to feel deprived.  It’s also perfect as a baby food!  With just two simple vegetables, it’s a great way to introduce flavors to a little one just starting out on solids, or a toddler who might eat soup better than they would eat a new vegetable.  For toddlers, I think the best way to serve soup is in a small, handled cup.  Fill it half way and let them sip at their own pace.  They love feeling in control and YOU will feel better with limited soup-spills as would occur most certainly if you handed them a spoon 🙂  This soup is also a great way to introduce YOU to a new vegetable!  Who here has bought and prepared celery root?  (also called celeriac)  If you haven’t, you don’t have to be afraid – it tastes like celery with the consistency of a sweet potato!

I’m happy to announce a little cooking segment I’ll be doing this year on my friend, Paul’s PBS show, 24 Frames!  (this soup makes an appearance!)  It’s very exciting to be a part of something creative and I’m deeply flattered that he included me in his show. I love talking about food more than anything, so once I get over the mortal fear of seeing myself talk on camera, I’ll finally start to enjoy watching my own segment.  Please tune in to 24 Frames every Saturday night at 9 p.m. Central on PBS!  The show should be available online very soon for those who don’t live in this area, and when it is, I’ll post a link!

Thank you all for watching and for reading my blog.  It’s very humbling and I hope you can feel a little more confident in the kitchen with every new recipe you try!

Butternut Squash and Celery Root Soup

Butternut Squash and Celery Root Soup
serves 6-8

 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 – 2lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 celery root, peeled, rinsed and diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock, hot
black pepper and cream for garnish
1. Peel and chop the onion, celery root and butternut squash.
2. Heat the oil in a large stock pot.
3. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.
4. Stir the squash, celery root and salt into the pot and cook for about 10 minutes until the squash begins to soften.
5. Add the rosemary and chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer over medium heat, partially covered, for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
6. Using a blender in batches, or an immersion blender, puree the soup until completely smooth.  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and thin out with cream or extra stock as desired.  Ladle into bowls and add a swirl of cream and a few dashes of fresh cracked pepper and serve!
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Sweet Pea Salad with Leek and Bacon

Pea and Leek Salad
This is just a fantastic side dish for any meal, any night of the week!  It’s fast, it’s adaptable to what you have on hand, and it’s tasty warm or cold!  So it’s perfect as a lunch box addition, or great warmed as a side for a hearty meal like pot roast, which is what I served this with yesterday at lunch (yay, leftovers!)

With just a touch of mayo to add richness, this isn’t a heavy dish at all.  I added leek because I think leeks improve just about any dish.  Brightness from rice wine vinegar cut what could have been a bland dish.  I’m happy with how it turned out, the girl seemed to enjoy it (as peas are a wonderfully natural finger-food for little hands) and it made a great side multiple days in a row.  Can’t ask more out of frozen peas than that!
Leek and Pea Salad

Sweet Pea Salad with Leek and Bacon

3 cups frozen green peas
1 leek, split in two and chopped fine and washed well (they’re dirty suckers)
4 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2″ strips
2 tablespoons mayo
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and boil the peas until tender but still firm, about 10 minutes.  Rinse them under cold water in a colander and set aside.

Crisp the bacon in a pan and remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels to drain.  Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease from the pan and saute the leeks until tender.

Put the peas, bacon and leeks in a large mixing bowl and add the mayo and vinegar and toss well to evenly coat everything.  Taste and season with salt and pepper, and maybe even more vinegar if you feel it still needs some brightness and serve at room temp or cold!  Or warm!  It’s all good 🙂