Thursday Recipe Exchange: Roasted Butternut Squash-Apple Soup

First some housekeeping – there will not be a recipe exchange next Thursday as I will be headed to the beach for some needed R&R.

On to today’s recipes. About this time of year I receive a number of requests for squash and sweet potato soup recipes. I have several:  Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup, Sweet Potato SoupButternut Squash & Leek Soup and Winter Squash Soup (click on each for the recipes).

That brings us to tonight’s featured recipe. The base recipe came to me via an email. I looked over the recipe and thought it needed some punch. The first thing I did was roast the squash to help bring some depth to the dish. I added a little heat and finished with a splash of lemon juice to brighten everything when it was done. I don’t think of it as a stand-alone soup (like my very favorite Tomato-Spinach soup), but I think it would work well as a first course in any meal. I think it would be especially nice at a Thanksgiving table.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Spiced Apple Soup

  • 4 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large apples – tart works well, but I used my neighbor’s backyard apples which worked great
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 12 cups (3 quarts) water or vegetable broth
  • splash of lemon juice

baking dish, dutch oven or large saucepan

Put about 1/4 inch of water in the baking dish, put squash face down and roast at 375 degrees until it is easy to put a fork through the skin. Turn over and continue roasting until tender and squash are golden brown. About 30-40 minutes. You can turn the heat up after you flip them to brown them, if desired. Remove to cool.

Meanwhile, core and slice apples into about 1 inch pieces. No need to peel or get fancy with the dicing since this is a puréed soup. Melt butter in the saucepan, add apple, onions and sauté until apples are soft and onions are golden. Add spices and coat the apple mixture. Scrape squash from skins and add to the apples, add water or broth. You can use chicken broth, but to keep it vegetarian I used vegetable broth. Let simmer for 30 minutes, purée until smooth, heat an additional 5-10 minutes, adding water if necessary and add a splash of lemon juice just before serving.

You can use a blender or hand blender to purée the mixture. If you use a blender, add a couple of ladles of soup to the blender, cover and blend slowly to start, to keep the mixture from expanding too much. I’ve seen hot liquid blow the lid off…you don’t want that. Blend in small batches. With a hand blender, keep it immersed and again blend slowly, to avoid splattering the hot liquid.

Apple Crisp Revisited: Now with Pictures

Couldn’t let JeffW and Mrs. J outdo me, so I got the camera out today when I decided to bake today.  Going on a picnic tomorrow, so I thought it would be a good time to make some more Perfect Apple Crisp to take along.

I made it in the skillet, but then transported it to a glass baking dish because I think it browns better in it and I have a cover for it and it will be easier to pack.

Oh, and where are we going on this picnic?   The Wild Animal Sanctuary.  Where there are lions and tigers and bears….oh yeah and a beautiful black panther that had his very own television show on Animal Planet.  I’ll try and get pictures.

Made more perfecter

Sorry, just had to use that title!  LOL  Mrs J really liked TaMara’s apple crisp the other day and she set out to make it for herself.  Some slight alterations to the recipe:  She wanted more juice so into the apples cooking  in the skillet went a half cup of apple cider with some corn starch so that it would thicken a bit more, and a few raisins because why not?  Heh, indeed.  Fresh grated cinnamon and nutmeg added some nice flavors.  She used the Splenda branded brown sugar.

The crumble topping looked like some hazelnuts would help it so the rest of a bag went in there, probably 1/2 cup.

It stayed in the oven long enough to toast the topping:

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Apple Butter Anyone? Updated.

This is how I spent my weekend.  How’d you spend yours?  Do anything fun?

(Updated.  See final tally at end of post)

Adventures in Apple Butter

It all started with a tree:

A tree filled with crab apples.  And a desire to see them not go to waste.  It took me 20 minutes to pick a 5 gallon bucket full.  I grabbed a few green apples from a neighboring tree to top it off.

Then it was home to wash them.  And wash them and wash them.

I washed 4 sinks full and washed them each three times, culling the bad ones each time.  A couple of things about crab apples:

  1. Bad ones float right to the top.
  2. Black spots always go all the way through the apple – took me about 10 to figure this out – so you can’t cut out the bad stuff.
  3. They seem to suffer from blossom rot, if the stems pulled out they had blossom rot and were rotten throughout.
  4. Unlike the green apples next to them, I saw no evidence of worms or bugs in any apple.  Whew!

Once I figured this out, culling them was pretty quick.  But the thing you need to know is that no matter how much you cull a few bad ones are going to slip through.  Just the nature of their size.  So if that is going to make you queasy, cooking with crab apples probably isn’t for you.

I used three tools for the apple butter and without them I don’t think I would have gone to the trouble.  I cooked them (basically steamed them) in my pressure cooker, I pureed them in my Vita-Mix and I cooked the apple butter down in my slow-cooker.  I can’t imagine the amount of work it would have taken without these.

Next step was to pressure cook them.  Whole: peels, seeds, stems and all.   I added about 1 cup of water and the steamer tray to my pressure cooker and then I cooked them for 25 minutes.  Which is probably a bit long, but that made sure they were good and mushy before the blending stage.

After cooling each batch a bit, I ran them through the Vita-Mix – peels, stems, seeds and all.  Keep in mind the seeds are minuscule  and the stems are smaller than grape stems and cooked tender.  To puree this in a hand puree’er would be to lose much of  the texture and flavors of the whole crab apples. You’d also lose a good portion of your tiny apples.

After running it through the Vita-Mix, I added about 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tbsp of pumpkin spice (cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg) for each 6 cups of puree.

This is the smooth mixture from the blender, before cooking down in slow-cooker

Then the mixture was added to the slow-cooker, filled to about 2 inches from the top.  Set the slow-cooker on low and use a wooden spoon to prop the lid open to let the steam escape. Because what you want is for the mixture to cook down by half and caramelize.    This takes 8-12 hours.  After the first batch, when the sides browned a little too much, I stirred the next batches every hour or so to keep it from burning.  After it cooked down and was the consistency I was looking for, I did it all over again.

As you can see, there is still a lot to do.  I am cooking the next batch of apples as I put this blog post together.  I only jarred two pints – these are not canned and will need to be refrigerated – one to use here and one to take to work tomorrow.  The rest I plan to can tomorrow night when all the butter is cooked.  I’m planning on both pints and 1/2 pints, most of which I will give away.  I still don’t have a good idea how much this is going to make, but I’ll wager 6 additional pints and 6  half pints.  I’ll update you when it’s all done.  Oh, and by the way, it tastes amazing.  And all weekend long my house smelled like fall.

UPDATED:  Final tally was 12 pints and 12 half pints.  I canned all but 3 pints and 4 half pints which were given away immediately to friends and neighbors with instructions to keep refrigerated.  I never expected it to make so much.

Mornay Sauce

This is one of my favorite dishes, shrimp and crab in a Mornay sauce served over broccoli and egg noodles.

This starts with butter and flour in a roux.  Cook it for a bit and then stir in some milk.  As the milk comes to a simmer it will thicken and smooth out.  Keep it at a simmer for a few minutes while constantly stirring then stir in a few ounces of cheese.  Today I used some Swiss cheese and Parmesan.  I grated a bit of nutmeg into it, that is strictly optional.

The crab was precooked so I folded it into the sauce.  The shrimp I steamed for a few minutes and combined them with some steamed broccoli in a greased casserole and then poured the cheese mixture atop that.  Topped the cheese with some herbed bread crumbs and set the dish in a 350 oven until it bubbled and browned a bit.

I like the egg noodles with this, I imagine any kind of pasta would work, as would potatoes, or a rice preparation of some kind.

Enjoy!

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Mmm…Apple Tarts

I saw some little pie tins while browsing through the Amazon specialty baking gear section and thought they would be perfect for individual turkey pot pies. I have fond memories of those frozen chicken pot pies-the ones that go straight to the oven from the freezer.  Yeah, those, you know what I’m talking about.

Well, I ordered them but we ran out of turkey before they came.  Mrs J reminded me that we have some apples that have been sitting around for a few days and they would be perfect filling for some little fruit pies.  Full speed ahead!  Mrs J put these together, I can’t link to a recipe because she really just winged it.  The crust is the old familiar Alton Brown recipe that has been working great for various pies lately.  She used a couple of Granny Smiths, and a couple of Galas.  There is brown sugar, lemon juice, raisins, butter, and flour involved.  She went with a crumble topping-flour, butter, and brown sugar.  I’ll bet she will read comments and answer any questions you are surely left with.

Enjoy!

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Enjoy!

Apple Butter Pork Loin

This is a new recipe for me and I loved the way it turned out.  The combination of pork, apple and spices was so good and this recipe is really easy.  It’s based on this recipe from Allrecipes.com, but I changed it up a little bit.  This recipe can be cut back to serve less people with very little trouble.

Apple Butter Pork Loin Roast

1 10 lb pork loin roast

7 apples – peeled and cored – sprinkled with cinnamon sugar if desired

4 cups of apple cider (32 oz)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups of apple butter (16 oz)

3/4 cup dark brown sugar (6 0z)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cloves

1 teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg

20 whole cloves – optional

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Put your pork roast in a roasting pan and season to taste with salt and pepper and stud with cloves if you’re using them.  Pour in the apple cider, making sure that  the bottom of the pan is covered.  Place your apples in the pan around the roast.  I used 4 Granny Smith and 3 Pink Lady apples, the Granny Smiths melted into apple sauce in the juice, the Pink Ladies stayed intact, but were very soft and sweet.

Cover tightly with foil and roast for 1 1/2 hours.

Mix the apple butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg in a small bowl while the roast is in the oven.

Remove the roast from the oven, uncover and slather the apple butter mix  over the roast, re-cover with the foil and return to oven and continue to roast for at least another 1 1/2 hours.  Uncover the roast and return to oven for 30 minutes until the apple butter glaze starts to dry out a bit.  Remove from oven and let sit and rest for 10 minutes.  Slice and serve with juice/sauce from the pan.

I found the cooking time after you add the apple butter glaze to be pretty forgiving.  There’s so much moisture in the pan that you can leave it cooking for a really long time without drying it out as long as the foil is on it.  I like to cook my pork until it’s falling apart, so I cooked mine for almost 2 1/2 hours before I pulled the foil off.  If you like your pork more firm, stick with the shorter time but cook until it is at least 190 degrees internal temp on a meat thermometer.

I served this with twice baked potatoes made with sour cream, sharp cheddar cheese and bacon, steamed asparagus drizzle with garlic-olive oil and classic ceasar salad.

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