Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spicy Cilantro- Lime Roasted Acorn Squash Soup with Roasted Shredded Chicken

Last February my sister brought me an entire case of acorn squash. Now, I absolutely love it but, it was February. It was a whole case. The holidays were over and, to be quite honest, I was sick of anything that required the addition of cinnamon, sugar, and whatever spice blazed a trail through Thanksgiving and Christmas. Faced with an entire case that was close to seeing better days, I gave as many away as I could, then hopped online to find something, anything, that wasn't sweet and "Holiday-ish". I came across a recipe over at The Traveler's Lunchbox, which had been adapted from Gourmet's October 2006 issue. Happy, happy, joy, joy! It was spicy!

So I made the recipe and was in Heaven. With it's spicy tart combination, I knew I wouldn't get sick of this anytime soon. I made, and ate quite a few.

My oldest daughter ended up coming over later in the day, and in her usual fashion, scoured the pantry and then proceeded to pour through the refrigerator. She pulled out the squash, heated some up, and while she was talking on her cell phone ( always, I tell you...) managed to utter a, "Wow, these are good", in between bites. When she finally removed the phone from her ear, she said, "You know, those were really good, but I think it would taste even better if you made it into a soup... and throw some chicken in it too!" Okay then.

The following day I played with acorn squash, using my daughters suggestions, and by adding the additional flavors of smoky paprika, cumin, a touch of Pinot Grigio, and half and half. The Tepin chiles are spicy, but if you use only the 3 whole ones that I have specified, you will find a spicy, pleasant flavor rather than heat. You can usually find the Tepin Chiles in the Hispanic food section of your local market, within the celophane bagged spices area, for around a dollar.

Topping off this soup with some additional cilantro, and a nice handful of crumbled cojita cheese, made this a fantastic addition to my line up of favorite fall soups!

Spicy Cilantro- Lime Roasted Acorn Squash Soup with Roasted Shredded Chicken

3 large Acorn Squash, halved and seeds removed (approximately 6 c mashed)
Olive oil, for brushing
Kosher salt, to taste
Crushed black pepper, to taste
7 c chicken stock
2 Tbs Honey
1/3 c chopped fresh Cilantro
3 whole Tepin chiles, crushed
1/4 tsp Cumin
1/8 tsp Smoky Paprika
Juice of 1 large lime
3/4 c Half and Half
1/2 c Pinot Grigio (optional)
2 c shredded roast chicken
Cojita cheese, crumbled for garnish
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Brush a baking sheet with olive oil or non-stick spray. Set aside. Brush halved acorn squash with olive oil. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Lightly sprinkle with smoky paprika. Place upside down on baking sheet and roast in oven at 375 F for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, until tender and can fluff with fork. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. After cooling, remove all squash from shell and place in a large stock pot. Mash with potato masher until somewhat smooth, leaving a few small chunks (I prefer a bit of texture). Add chicken broth, and combine. Place over medium heat, and add chopped cilantro, crushed tepin, cumin, paprika, and lime juice. Bring to a slight boil, stirring well, then reduce to a simmer. Blend in half and half. Add shredded roast chicken, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve garnished with Cojita cheese and chopped cilantro. Makes approximately 8 servings.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Apple Coffee Cake

Don't you just love this time of year?! Changing colors... falling leaves... falling temperatures- well, in some parts of the country that is. Here, in the Valley of the Sun, we were told triple digits are still in our future- ugh! But at least our evenings are cooling down enough to open our windows, and allow some fresh air back in again.

What I do love about this time of year is the over abundance of apples . More than any other, they are my absolute favorite fresh fruit. Gala apples to be specific. Always crisp, with the perfect touch of sweetness, they are my favorite snack as well as my favorite baking apple.

Some years ago, I was given this recipe by a man that had done some repairs on my car. We had gotten on the subject of holiday baking, and he said that this cake was his favorite fall treat. His mom had baked it every year for as long as he could remember, calling it "Raw Apple Cake". I don't know about you, but that struck me as odd. I mean, don't most ingredients start out as "raw"? Of course, once baked, the apple no longer would be. To me, the name had to go. I figured since there was a significant amount of coffee in the recipe, Apple Coffee Cake had a much better tune.

I love the subtle flavors of Fall in this cake. Not overly spiced, the flavor of the apple shines through. Combined with the textures of the nuts and the raisins, and a light sprinkle of coconut, it's a really great breakfast treat... or a really late night time snack- with a lot of butter. Yeah, it's butter season, too ;-)

Apple Coffee Cake

1 c unsalted butter
2 c sugar
4 eggs
1 c cold coffee
3 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c raisins, soaked 15 minutes in very hot water, then drained
3 c peeled, sliced apples
1 c walnuts
1/2 c shredded coconut

Combine baking soda and coffee; set aside. Combine flour and spices; set aside.

Combine butter and sugar in a large bowl, creaming well. Add eggs, one at a time until well blended. Alternately add the flour mixture with the coffee mixture to the butter, making sure it is completely blended. Then fold in raisins, apples, and walnuts.

Pour batter into a large loaf or cake pan that has been lightly greased and floured. Sprinkle top with coconut. Bake at 350 F for approximately 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on your oven. Let cool completely before serving.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Giveaway Winner!

We have a winner! Lisa of Chocolate and, you are the lucky winner of Peet's French Roast Whole Bean Coffee and the book Dinner Parties, inspired recipes and party ideas for entertaining, by Williams- Sonoma. Drop me an email with your mailing address, and I'll get that out asap! Thanks for stopping in everyone! With the holidays coming there will be more giveaways soon!

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