Adventures in Cooking – Week 1

As everyone knows, the beginning of a new year always leads people to make resolutions about losing weight, traveling, spending more time with family, etc…  Well, this year I decided to try something I’ve never done before.  Wait for it….. I plan to COOK one new recipe every week, trying to use foods that I have never used before.  I know it’s not the most exciting resolution, but cooking has never been my strongest area.  Case in point, I’m the sister known for burning water and scraping off the burnt edges on a piece of toast.  Bless my father and his non-existent taste buds, but he always ate everything I put in front of him.

My family knows that I’ve been on a pretty restrictive diet for the past year and a half.  Most days, the only cooking I did was an omelet in the morning and baked chicken or fish for dinner.  All of my other meals consisted of fruits and vegetables that required little or no preparation.  Since I’m now able to broaden my horizons and expand my dietary palate, I thought that this year I would try to make new meals that I’ve never had before.  Just this week, I made the most decadent soup from a butternut squash!  This type of squash is extremely high in beta-carotene, the antioxidant that helps ward off many health problems, so the soup is good for you too.

The butternut squash was a gift from a coworker, and I, with my limited cooking knowledge, had no idea what to do with it.  So where does everyone go when they are looking for inspiration?  My favorite website, Pinterest!  Browsing through their options, I looked for anything that appeared remotely edible, and came across this wonderful recipe from the Martha Stewart Living website.

Butternut Bisque

My apartment smelled amazing once I added in all the seasoning

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper plus more for garnish if desired

Coarse salt

1 large butternut squash (about 4 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes.  Here’s a helpful video walking through preparing a butternut squash for cooking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qwTjTUMT8Y

Voila! The final product!

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 cup half-and-half

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Sour cream, for serving

Directions:

1. In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium.  Add onion, garlic, thyme, cinnamon, and cayenne.  Season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Add squash, broth, half-and-half, and 3 cups water.  Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook until squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Working in batches, puree in a blender until smooth. Make sure you don’t overfill your blender, because the hot soup will expand when mixed together.  Stir in lemon juice; season with salt.  Serve bisque with sour cream garnished with cayenne, if desired.

It’s as easy as that.  Preparation time took me about 8 minutes, so the total cooking time ranges from 33 to 35 minutes.  Fresh vegetable based soups usually keep about 2 days in the refrigerator.  If there are any leftovers, this soup is perfect for freezing.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

P.S.  I know it’s technically the second week of the new year, but my recipe from last week ended up setting off the fire alarm, and I didn’t think anyone would find that appealing (except my dad, of course).

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