Thanksgiving Table: Squash Soup (Stovetop and Instant Pot)

Need to keep everyone out of the kitchen while you finish up dinner prep?  Set up a buffet table with a raw vegetable tray and dip, a bowl of nuts (in their shells) along with a couple of nutcrackers and this soup in a slowcooker to keep it warm and that should keep your guests occupied while you cook.

Winter Squash Soup

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3-1/4 pounds butternut or acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cut into large pieces
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 carrot, quartered
  • 1 celery stalk, quartered
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Pastas and Sauces

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Last year I did a recipe exchange on meatballs (here) but was surprised to see I had never done one specifically on sauces. Now sauces can be risky and start a great debate, because every family has their version. So hit the comments with your favorite pasta sauce recipe, and for that matter, pastas, because there are so many choices. Like many things, I’m not all that concerned about the right pasta for the right sauce, I say, use what you enjoy and ignore the purists.

Food should be fun. For that matter, so should wine, beer and scotch.

So let’s start out with JeffreyW’s Awesome Sauce (here) because, well, it’s awesome.

Want something a little simpler and quicker? How about his San Marzano Sauce, here.

And his Shrimp & Pasta Formaggio (here) is quick and easy, also.

When everything is in season, I like to make my sauce with fresh ingredients, so I have a Garden Fresh Pasta Sauce (recipe here) that’s lighter and fresher than tonight’s featured recipe.

When it comes to pastas, I favor two options, a nice spiral (fusilli or rotini) or a quick cooking Angel Hair (capellini), but if I can get it fresh from the farmer’s market, I’ll take what I can get, which is usually a linguine. It’s all tasty.

For the featured recipe, I went with my traditional family sauce, the one I grew up with, but with a few tweaks. Now, even in my family, half of which are Italian, even the most basic sauce has as many different variations as there are cooks, so this is just a place to start, add your own touches to make it your family tradition. This is a hearty sauce and my go-to in the colder months when fresh ingredients are not readily available. I always double this and freeze half for a later dinner.

Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce

  • 9 – 12 oz pasta of choice (I like angel hair for this recipe)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 tsp. crushed garlic
  • 1 lb lean ground beef (or 1/2 beef and 1/2 spicy Italian sausage)
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 tomatoes, diced (or 14 oz can diced tomatoes)
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 tsp dried basil, crushed*
  • 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp rosemary, crushed
  • 1 carrot, finely grated or 1/2 tsp sugar (these reduce the acidity of the sauce and bring out the spices – trust me on this one – I prefer the carrot, myself.)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes (opt) to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese

2 saucepans and large skillet

In skillet, heat oil, sauté pepper, onion, garlic.  Add hamburger and cook thoroughly.  Add tomato paste and 1 tsp ea of crushed basil, oregano and rosemary, mix well.   In saucepan, add remaining ingredients and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, add meat mixture and let simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Cook pasta according to directions, drain well and serve with sauce and Parmesan cheese.

*CRUSHING Spices – when using dry spices, to get the best flavor, you should crush them, either by rubbing them in your hand or using a mortar and pestle before adding them to a recipe.

That’s it for this week. I know I still owe you a recipe to go with this delicious looking Cream of Chicken Soup I made this week. And if you missed it, here is the Dinner Menu and Shopping list for the week, Pasticcio and Salata Meze. – TaMara

Friday Recipe Exchange: Thanksgiving Non-Traditional Side Dishes

JeffreyW's Roasted Brussels Sprout and Potato Gratin

JeffreyW’s Roasted Brussels Sprout and Potato Gratin

This is the time of year when we get a lot of blog visits from people looking for side dishes. And I have a lot of recipes for the traditional holiday sides, desserts and instructions on the various ways to cook your turkey. JeffreyW has a ton of mouthwatering photos. All of that can be found at at this link.

I thought it would be nice though, to focus on some non-traditional sides for tonight’s recipe exchange. In case you were looking for something different to showcase this year.

Soups make a nice starter at for any meal and tonight’s featured recipe is a savory winter soup. I also have a nice Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup, (click here)

JefferyW favors brussels sprouts and came up with this wonderful recipe, Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin pictured above. (click here)

Roasted Brussels sprouts are pretty easy, and leave it to Emeril Lagasse to “kick it up a notch” with his Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Grilled Onions. (click here)

I’m not big on the whole candied sweet potatoes, so I went looking for alternatives and found three I like,  African Sweet Potato Salad, Cajun Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes and Apples, click here for all the recipes. You can also just roast them in the oven, and I found two really good recipes here (honey roasted) and here (thyme roasted).

What are your Thanksgiving plans? Are you doing the cooking or does someone else have the honors? And most importantly, what are your favorite Thanksgiving recipes?

The Thanksgiving featured recipe is one that works great as an appetizer:

Need to keep everyone out of the kitchen while you finish up dinner prep?  Set up a buffet table with a raw vegetable tray and dip, a bowl of nuts (in their shells) along with a couple of nutcrackers and this soup in a slowcooker to keep it warm and that should keep your guests occupied while you cook.

Winter Squash Soup

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3-1/4 pounds butternut or acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cut into large pieces
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 carrot, quartered
  • 1 celery stalk, quartered
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Chopped chives (for garnish)

Large sauce pan

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the squash, onions, carrot, celery and garlic; sauté until slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Add the chicken broth, apple juice, thyme and sage. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over medium-low heat until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from stove. Puree the vegetables until smooth with a hand blender or in batches in the food processor or blender. Taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if desired.

***Soup can be made to this point 1 day ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.***

Return soup to pot and bring to a simmer. Add the sherry and simmer about 2 minutes. Stir in the cream, sour cream and nutmeg until well combined. Place soup into large soup tureen and garnish with chives. Place on appetizer table with small bowls & spoons and let everyone help themselves.

That’s everything this week. There won’t be a recipe exchange next Friday, but next week I’ll be featuring more recipes for the holiday. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving. – TaMara


Thursday Recipe Exchange: Wash Day Beans and Rice

Click on image for full size

Since this is the weekly recipe exchange, when I settled on red beans and rice, I decided to go googling around the internet and see what everyone else thought red beans and rice should be. I stumbled across the photo above and knew I had to include it tonight. The recipe isn’t that much different from what I’ve been making for years. If it’s good enough for one of my favorite performers, it’s good enough for me.

I live within walking distance of a Lucille’s restaurant that I do not visit often enough. Mostly because it is open only for breakfast and lunch. A week or so ago, I realized I really wanted their Wash Day Lunch, but didn’t see how it would fit into my schedule that week. Then I remembered I had a big jar of Lucille’s spice in my cupboard. The solution seemed simple, I’d make a batch of red beans and rice, tonight’s featured recipe.

Of course, JeffreyW has his own take on this, with great photos to accompany his Red Beans and Rice with Pickle Pork (click here to see it, you know you want to).

For tonight’s featured recipe, I threw on my Zydeco cds and started chopping and sautéing. Set it to simmer all day and finished it off with some delicious buttermilk corn bread.

Red Beans and Rice

  • 1 lb. Kidney Beans
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • Water or vegetable broth
  • 6 small Ham Hocks or one smoked Pork Butt, wash well and pat dry
  • 1 tbsp (or more as desired) of Creole spice, I favor Lucille’s
  • 1/2 lb. of bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced*
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 links andouille sausage

Saucepan or dutch oven, skillet


Wash beans thoroughly, cover them with cold water and soak overnight. Pour water off, cover with fresh water and cook until tender. I use a pressure cooker, because at this altitude it’s the only way to get tender beans and it takes less than 30 minutes. Once tender, drain and add chopped tomato, Creole spice, ham hocks, a bit of water or vegetable broth and simmer on low.

In skillet, cook bacon until slightly crisp, drain on a paper towel. Add to bean mixture.

Remove all but 2 tbsp of bacon fat from the skillet, add diced onions, bell pepper and carrot. Sauté on medium heat until tender, add garlic, cook additional 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add everything to the beans, turn to low and let simmer at least 3 hours, ham should be falling off the bone. I like the idea of simmering all day for the best flavor. Add more water or broth as needed to keep it from drying out.

About an hour before serving, I sliced the sausage in half lengthwise and browned on both sides in a skillet, I then added it to the bean mixture to simmer.

*carrot is optional, but I find it adds a nice sweetness to the dish.

Serve over rice with corn bread. Makes 6 good sized servings.


I used brown rice for this dish and loved the flavor with the spicy bean mixture.

  • 2 cups brown rice, rinsed
  • 2 cups water

Saucepan or pressure cooker

Add water and rice to pan, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low and cook until all water is absorbed, about 45 minutes with traditional saucepan and 25 minutes with a pressure cooker.

Thursday Night Recipe Exchange: Spinach Recipes

Recipe Exchange cross-posted at Balloon-Juice.

I thought last week went really well.  Thanks for playing along. This week we delve into spinach recipes.  I used to hate spinach.  This is probably because I am a child of the 70’s and the only spinach I ever saw was canned or frozen, with the consistency of slime.  As an adult I discovered fresh, baby spinach and I never looked back.  One of my favorite spinach recipes is Spinach Lasagna.  

JeffreyW's stuffed manicotti with spinach

I also make a pretty good Tomato-Spinach Soup, here’s nice recipe for Chicken and Spinach Wraps, and JeffreyW has a lovely Stuffed Manicotti that uses spinach.  So now it’s your turn.  What are some of your favorite uses for spinach? Hit the comments and share.

To get us started:

Spinach Lasagna

This is one of my most requested recipes.  Every time I make it, someone wants the recipe.  Since the prep time is long, I usually only break it out for special occasions.  It freezes well, so you can make a double batch and freeze two 8×8 pans of  uncooked lasagna for two more meals.  Thaw the night  before (in the refrigerator) and cook until heated through, about 45 minutes to an hour.  This recipe is great vegetarian, or you can add ground beef and sausage if desired.

 This recipe takes about an hour to prepare and another hour to cook. It easily serves 6 – 8


  • 3-15 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 2-6 oz cans tomato paste
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 3 tsp basil, crushed
  • 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled & finely grated
  • pinch of sugar (reduces acidity of the tomatoes)
  • Optional: ½ lb ground beef and ½ spicy Italian sausage, browned


Add all ingredients to saucepan on medium-high, stirring constantly until it begins to boil lightly. Turn to low and let simmer while you prepare the remaining ingredients.


  • 1 pkg lasagna noodles (16 oz), cooked and placed in cool water until layering*
  • 16 oz ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz fresh baby spinach, washed and dried and chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 12 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese

13×9 baking dish (I prefer glass), lightly oiled

To prepare: Mix ricotta, spinach and egg until well blended. Ladle a layer of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover in a single layer of noodles. Ladle sauce over noodles. Spoon ½ of the ricotta mixture evenly (if you place large dollops evenly like putting cookie dough on a baking sheet, fairly close together, it will spread as it cooks, no need to smooth it). Layer 1/3 of the mozzarella over the ricotta. Repeat: noodles, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, noodles. On top of the last layer of noodles, add remaining sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, uncovered – I like to place the baking dish on a baking sheet to catch any spills as it bubbles. Place knife through the center, if it comes out heated through, remove and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving. If it needs more cooking time, you can cover with foil to keep the cheese from burning and cook 10 more minutes. Let stand uncovered before serving.

*if you’d like to make your own noodles, here is the recipe I use:

Lasagna Noodles

When I do make the pasta, I make three, pan-sized noodles, rolled very, very thin. I place them uncooked in the dish, so they absorbed much of the sauce.  I usually make a bit extra sauce to serve on the side with the lasagna.

  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup water

In a large bowl, add flour.  Make a well in the center and add egg yolks, eggs and salt.  Mix well with a fork.  Mix in water, 1 tbsp at a time until dough forms a ball.  Turn out onto a well floured board or pastry sheet.  Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Cover and let rest 10 minutes.  Divide dough into 3 equal parts.  Roll one ball out as thin as possible (I use a marble rolling pin, you can also use a pasta machine).  Make sure to cover remaining balls with a damp towel until ready to use.  Cut to fit pan. Repeat with remaining dough until you have 3 pan sized noodles.  DO NOT COOK  homemade noodles before putting lasagna together.  Follow directions above for putting lasagna together.

Next Week:  Favorite Super Bowl Food 

Thunder Snow and Sweet Potato Soup

We are once again under a severe winter snow warning.  Blizzard conditions in some areas.  It started out as rain then turned to snow.  Along with the snow there was lots of thunder.  They call it thunder snow – seems to happen during  fall and spring snows.

Roads are bound to be an icy mess tomorrow.  I’ll probably be working from home.  Already made a batch of  soup and am planning on a couple more batches of different varieties tomorrow  to serve as lunches through the weekend.

This is one I’ve been wanting to try for a while.  It’s a blended sweet potato soup.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Creamy Sweet Potato Tomato Soup

  • 2 large tomatoes or 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, quartered
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 8 pieces each
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed, cut into quarters
  • 1 apple, cored
  • 2 cups vegetable broth – I prefer low sodium
  • 2 cups water
  • salt and pepper to taste

In blender, add all ingredients, except water.  Blend until smooth, add water as needed.  Add mixture to saucepan, along with water, salt and pepper.  Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.  Serve with a crusty bread.  Serves 4


Roasted Tomato Soup

Mrs J called and said she would be late coming home, seems they brought back a bunch of puppies and kittens from a local kill shelter and she will stay until they are squared away.  I hope she has time to take some decent pictures.

Meanwhile, I made a batch of tomato soup from this recipe. It is a bit more complex than the easiest ever recipe from this morning but I will still give it an easy tag.  I followed the recipe fairly closely with some minor mods-I added several tablespoons of tomato paste, a pinch of sugar and a splash of Marsala wine (h/t Kirk), and used fresh tomatoes rather than canned.  The recipe lists basil and heavy cream as options, I didn’t use the cream, did use some basil.

Tomato soup just cries out for grilled cheese on the side.  I sliced some French bread, spread garlic butter on the slices, and layered on some farmer’s and pepper jack cheeses.  Mmm…grilled cheese.

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Mmm…ramen for lunch


Sigh, I just can’t quit you, Ms Ramen.  Not that I’d want to.  LOL!

Repaired a small leak in the basement this morning, a pin hole in a piece of copper water pipe.  It was right over the kitty litter boxes and has ruined about a peck of litter.  Mrs J has gone to the store for more and will stop at the grocery while she’s in town.  Good chance to indulge my “hot” tooth with a generous squirt of sriracha sauce.

Just the basic ramen stir fry-this one with some roast pork that has been laying around.  Added some carrot and broccoli, half an onion, a rib of celery and various condiment type ingredients:  Garlic, peppers, ginger, etc.  Yummy and quick.

I bought some pot stickers at the Asian grocery last trip, I may steam those tonight, and do something with shrimp.  Mmm…shrimp.