Roasted Squash Soup

Squash soup is as fall as colorful leaves, apple cider, pumpkins. And even though the leaves have been blown by the wind into disorganized piles around the yard, pumpkins replaced with holly greens and lights, squash still holds an honored spot in our local grocery stores. As long as these fruit-like vegetables stick around, I will turn them into soup… Bwahaha



Roasted Delicata Squash Soup


3 to 4 pounds squash, peeled and seeded (I use Delicata, but if you can’t find that, Butternut works too)
2 yellow onions
2 McIntosh apples, peeled and cored
3 tablespoons good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 to 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 teaspoon good curry powder

Scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and sliced diagonally (sprinkled on top)


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the butternut squash, onions and apples in 1-inch cubes. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Divide the squash mixture between 2 sheet pans and spread it in a single layer. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, until very tender.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock to a simmer. When the vegetables are done, put them through a food mill fitted with the medium blade. (Alternatively, you can place the roasted vegetables in batches in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add some of the chicken stock and coarsely puree.) When all of the vegetables are processed, place them in a large pot and add enough chicken stock to make a thick soup. Add the curry powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Taste for seasonings to be sure there’s enough salt and pepper to bring out the curry flavor.

Recipe slightly modified from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.


My favorite St Patrick’s Day dinner


In Ireland, corned beef and cabbage is about as Irish as spaghetti and meatballs. It turns out this peasant corned beef and cabbage meal is just an American way to celebrate Irish heritage. So, if you’re planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a traditional non-Irish dinner Monday, I have a few recipes you should try. For those of you who have been following me forever, (thank you!) this will be a familiar post. Every year, I alter my recipe just a little, and it just gets better, so I wanted to share the latest with you.


First, you need to buy the best piece of corned beef you can find. This is of utmost importance to the entire meal, so splurge on a roast that’s the real thing. We’re fortunate to have several stores nearby that sell local beef. Beef from cattle raised without growth hormones or antibiotics on farms where they graze on natural native grasslands, pastures and forests. My favorite local store is New Seasons Market, and this is where I buy corned beef. Their corned beef is a beef brisket that is not overly salted or seasoned.

I’ve often wondered why some meats sold as corned beef are red and others gray, so I emailed the friendly people at New Seasons to find out. Within 24-hours, I received a message back from Daniel Menashe, a customer advocate at the market, who took me to beef school.

According to Daniel, “Red corned beef is a more modern invention. It’s the result of adding potassium nitrate or sodium nitrite to the meat in order to preserve the red color. It may look prettier, but some folks take issue with the safety of these compounds, and most chefs and gourmands feel that they can rob the subtlety from a cured meat.” “Our corned beef is classic gray and proud of it.”


At New Seasons they use beef brisket because it’s the most tender and well-marbled.

He also explained where the term corn comes in. “The corn in ‘corned beef,’ doesn’t refer to the New World grain, but rather an Old English term for salt — a corn of salt used to mean the same thing as a grain of salt.”

To sum it up — “Brisket is best. Go for the gray. It has nothing to do with corn.”

Now that you know everything you need to know about corned beef, pick up a 3 lb. piece of gray beef, perfectly cured with herbs and spices at your favorite local store. The best way to cook it, in my opinion, is slowly in a Dutch oven.



St Paddy’s Day dinner

3 lbs corned beef
24 oz Guinness (or other stout beer)
2 leeks, sliced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 green cabbage, sliced into 8 wedges
12 small red potatoes
Bunch of carrots, with tops snapped off
Bunch of asparagus, washed and snapped
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 Tablespoon dried basil
Sea salt
Horseradish for serving or creamy horseradish sauce (see recipe below)

Place beef, sliced leeks and garlic into a large (7 quart) oven-proof dish and add enough beer to cover the meat. You may need to add some water to fully cover the meat. Place a lid over the dish and place into a 325°F oven for about 3 hours. Add cabbage wedges and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cabbage is soft.

Place the potatoes, carrots and asparagus into a large baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on some sea salt and the parsley and basil. Roast in a 325°F oven for at least an hour, or until veggies are tender. You can also throw these items in with the meat and cabbage for an hour or so if you wish. My husband has a thing about carrots cooked with meat, so I roast them separately to accommodate him. I actually prefer this method now.

Lay out the vegetables onto a serving platter. Slice the corned beef, against the grain into thin slices and top with some of that delicious cooking liquid. Serve warm.

Oh, and this soda bread is an absolute must served alongside…

The following recipe is the original Irish soda bread from Grand Central Baking Company, a fabulous local bakery here in Portland.

Grand Central’s Irish Soda Bread
Makes 8 pieces, or two large rounds

4 cups + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 Tablespoons orange zest
2-1/4 teaspoons caraway seeds
3/4 cup currants
14 Tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons buttermilk, divided
Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 Tablespoon water and a pinch of salt)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a high-sided mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in orange zest, caraway seeds and currants.

Dice butter in 1/2-inch cubes. Use your hands or the paddle attachment to mix butter into dry ingredients until the texture becomes mealy. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and chill overnight, or proceed with the recipe.

Add 3/4 cup buttermilk all at once, mixing just until the dough comes together, 30-35 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients and add remaining buttermilk.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 2 chunks. Gently shape the pieces into dome-like disks and score each one into quarters.

Place disks on the baking sheet and brush liberally with egg wash. Put the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until disks are shiny and golden brown.

Creamy horseradish sauce
Makes 1 cup

1/3 cup cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 T. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste

Whip the cream until soft peaks form. In another medium size bowl, combine the mayonnaise, horseradish, and mustard. Fold in whipped cream, and sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Stir well.

Voila! Just add good friends. And Guinness!

And just in case you’re wondering…
Paddy is derived from the Irish, Pádraig: the source of those mysterious, emerald double-Ds.
Patty is the diminutive of Patricia, or a burger, and just not something you call a fella.
There isn’t a sinner in Ireland that would refer to a Patrick as “Patty”. It’s as simple as that.

Lá Shona Fhéile Pádraig! Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Coconut Chicken Curry

February in Portland always fools us with its sunny, springlike days. Then, just as you think it’s safe to go outside, the cold winds knock you down. I was able to sneak away to the beach last weekend, and returned to a husband and daughter who appear to have caught the flu. Let me tell you, not having the flu while everyone else in your house does, is almost as bad as all that. They seem to be on the mend, and as a way to stay clear of their germs, I spent some time creating comfort food. I’m not sure they loved it, but I sure found it comforting.


If you’re still in the wintery season where you are, you need this in your life.


Keep in mind that I am still without a stove or kitchen, so I made this in my life-saving skillet.

This could easily be turned into a vegetarian or vegan dish. I’m thinking of trying it with cauliflower, green onions, maybe some chickpeas. Once you get the curry sauce to your taste, you can build it however you like.

Coconut Chicken Curry

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 sweet onion, diced
1 delicata or butternut squash, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 can (15oz) pumpkin puree
2 cups low-sodium broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 Teaspoon ground ginger
2 Teaspoons tumeric
2 Teaspoons coriander
2 Teaspoons curry powder
1/8 Teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Rice or pasta to serve alongside

Heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet (or Dutch oven) over high heat. Cut chicken breasts into 1 inch pieces and cook until browned on all sides. Remove and set aside.
Reduce heat and add remaining 1 T olive oil to pan. Add diced onion, diced squash and ginger powder. Cook for a few minutes until the onion and squash is soft. Add pressed garlic and cook for another couple minutes.
Add tomatoes and pumpkin puree. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until puree is lightly browned.
Add broth, coconut milk, tumeric, coriander, curry and cayenne. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add chicken and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
Stir in cilantro.
Serve with rice or pasta, and a glass of red wine.

Asparagus Risotto


Hi everyone! Welcome to fall! It’s my very favorite season. So much to look forward to… cozy sweaters, crisp mornings, crunchy leaves, rainy days, Halloween, fires in the fireplace, new TV shows, soups… I used to love fall because it meant my birthday was coming, but that doesn’t excite me anymore. It actually kinda freaks me out. I try to believe that those numbers don’t really mean much, but the higher they get, the more I have to tell myself that they’re just numbers and they don’t really mean much. Why does time seem to accelerate with more life experiences? (aka age). Does anyone else feel that way?

Speaking of time, if you’ve ever made risotto from scratch, then you know how much time is involved. The amount of time spent stirring and waiting for all the liquid to be incorporated is almost not worth the effort. Homemade risotto is one of those all consuming tasks that does not allow a bit of multitasking while creating it. Come to think of it, I may have just found a solution to slow down time… risotto. But if you’re like me, you don’t really have enough time to not multitask, so carry on. This post is about saving time right?

Enter microwave risotto! Welcome to my world!


It’s so simple. I made mine with fresh asparagus, but you can add whatever you like. I can’t wait to try it with delicata squash!


I served it with a small filet of wild Coho salmon topped with homemade pesto. Oh yea!

Microwave Asparagus Risotto
Serves 4 (serving size: 1 cup)
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

3/4 cup chopped onion
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
3 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 ounces shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1/3 cup), divided

NOTE: This risotto is not covered while microwaving, so use a large (at least 2-quart) bowl to allow plenty of room for the liquid to boil.
1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a 2-quart microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave at HIGH 3 minutes. Stir in rice; microwave at HIGH 3 minutes. Stir in stock and wine; microwave at HIGH 16 minutes, stirring for 30 seconds every 4 minutes. Add asparagus; microwave at HIGH 2 minutes. Stir in rind, juice, salt, pepper, and half of cheese. Top with remaining cheese.

Parenting and a savory tart

We did it! Another year of high school is behind us! Not that I’m in any hurry to have my daughter grow up, but high school has not been a great experience so far. Our neighborhood high school holds approximately 1500 students, which puts 35+ teenagers in each class at any given time. Consider all those different personalities and quirky behaviors in close quarters together for seven hours a day.

“Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years.” -Unknown

On a positive note, last weekend my daughter was in a spring dance performance where she was recognized for her dance achievements, and given a scholarship for future dance classes and expenses. So proud of her!

During this last week, while getting my daughter through finals and daily dance practices, quick, simple recipes were essential in getting food on the table. There’s one dish I want to share with you. It’s a roasted veggie savory tart. Once you have a few basic ingredients on hand, you can top this tart with nearly anything. So easy, it practically makes itself, and it can multitask into an appetizer, a side dish, a brunch dish, or a complete meal.




Original recipe by The Decisive Cook

Savory Roasted Veggie Tart
1 box puff pastry shells
2 sweet onions
1 head of garlic
10 small peppers in various colors
2 eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan
1 Teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 Teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup crumbled chevre
Flour for rolling out pastry
Parchment paper
Cookie sheet with sides (baker’s half sheet, 18×13″)

Defrost pastry shells at room temperature for 40 minutes. On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to the size of the pan with 1 inch fold around edges. Cover pan with parchment paper, and place pastry onto it. Brush with an egg wash (1 egg, 1 Tablespoon water). Prick pastry with a fork on the top surface.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place peppers, and garlic in a baking dish. Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil and roast in a 350°F. oven for about 45 minutes, or until peppers are a bit browned.

Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil to a pan, and heat on medium-high heat. Thinly slice the onions and add to the pan. Add sugar and basil. Cook, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or until onions are slightly browned.

Whisk together ricotta cheese and egg. Slather the mixture onto the egg washed pastry. Top with 1/4 cup of the parmesan, the carmelized onions, roasted garlic, roasted peppers, chevre and sprinkle on the remainder of the parmesan.

Bake at 375°F for 25-30 minutes or until pastry is browned.

Forbidden rice and veggie stir fry

The 95+ degree weather is making me extremely lethargic and downright bitchy. It feels more like August here than the beginning of July. Last night’s dinner consisted of a cold turkey sandwich and two gallons of water. Last week my daughter was a vegetarian, hubby was out of town, and we made this…


It all started with this beautiful rice we found while strolling through Pastaworks. It’s aptly named ‘Heirloom Forbidden rice.’ Legend has it this ancient grain, also referred to as ‘longevity rice,’ was originally reserved for emperors of China. It’s treasured for its roasted nutty flavor, soft texture and gorgeous deep purple color. It’s also a natural source of antioxidants called anthocyanins — the purple pigments that are also found in blueberries and acai, but without the sugar.


Simple stir fry meals are one of my new favorites to cook and to eat. Just grab some fresh veggies — whatever floats your boat — and is currently in season. For this stir fry, I sautéed garlic cloves, broccoli, carrots, sweet peppers, scallions. Then I cubed a bunch of extra firm tofu, added that to the veggie mix and heated it through. Then there was peanut sauce… oh the peanut sauce!

Summer meals are challenging, I like to make them as simple as possible so I spend the least amount of time over a hot stove, but too many cold meals leave me unsatisfied in any season. This meal takes little effort. Simple. Healthy. Delicious.

Here’s the not-so-forbidden recipe:

Tofu Veggie Stir Fry
Serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 piece (3 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup broccoli florets
3 scallions, thinly sliced
5 smallish carrots
8 oz extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 cups cooked purple (forbidden rice) or brown rice
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger, carrots, peppers and scallions. Stir-fry for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tofu. Stir-fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Serve over rice and drizzle with peanut sauce.

Peanut sauce (from Bon Appetit)

This makes enough sauce for several meals. Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to a week.

1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled
1 small garlic clove
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon (packed) light brown sugar
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
With motor running, drop ginger and garlic clove into a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, and 1/3 cup water and blend, adding more water by tablespoonfuls if needed to thin, until smooth. Peanut sauce can be made 3 days ahead. Transfer to a small bowl, cover, and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

I hope you’re having a fabulous summer!

Creamy tomato basil pasta


While many people across the country are enjoying outdoor BBQs today, I’m melting butter, sautéing garlic and onions, in preparation for our indoor Memorial Day comfort food dinner. My hair is frizzy after being caught in a rainstorm while out gathering ingredients. I’m shivering in a sweater and fuzzy socks. The furnace is blowing warm air. My dogs are content to curl up and sleep. Does this resonate with you right now? No? Then you don’t live in the great northwest!

I hope your Monday is bright!

If you’re looking for some carbolisciousness this week, make this comforting pasta dish. You won’t be sorry.


Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta

Chop 4 cloves of garlic until they’re diced. Chop 1 whole sweet onion into small pieces. Sauté in 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter over medium-high heat for a couple minutes. Add 30 ounces of your favorite tomato sauce to the mix, sprinkle with a few shakes of salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, boil 1 lb of fettuccine, or your favorite pasta, and drain. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in 1 cup half and half, some grated parmesan cheese and chopped basil leaves. Serve warm sprinkled with additional parmesan, a green salad, and a loaf of crunchy artisan bread, and you’ve got a quick and easy weekday meal for 4-6.