savory pumpkin soup

Fall is definitely in the air.
Cool nights. Crisp mornings. Sky so blue it hurts my heart.
And I am loving every second.
Not that I’m rushing anything. Seriously. Here in northern Minnesota we typically have winter from the end of October till early May. So much fun. *heavy sarcasm*
Even so, I am in love with fall, and soup and I are basically bffs.
This savory pumpkin soup is warm and smooth with coconut milk, but bright with a hint of apple. If you crave a more hearty flavor, substitute beef broth for vegetable.
Enjoy!

SAVORY PUMPKIN SOUP

2 tablespoons clarified butter
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon diced garlic
1 apple, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
a generous dash of cinnamon
a dash of rosemary
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (canned is fine, though making your own is a snap).
1 quart broth (vegetable, chicken, beef)
3/4 cup coconut milk

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, melt clarified butter and caramelize onion, garlic and apple together until translucent and fragrant. Add spices (salt, pepper, cinnamon, rosemary) and a splash of broth. Heat to boiling and simmer for a few minutes until you can’t even handle how good your kitchen smells.

Add pureed pumpkin, half the broth, and the coconut milk. Heat through, and then either with an immersion blender (Best Invention Ever) or by transferring the contents of your soup pot to a blender—in batches if necessary— whirl until smooth. If you’ve used a blender, transfer soup back to the pot and add the remaining broth.
Stir gently until texture is consistent.

Serve warm with crusty bread (or without if you happen to be doing whole 3o *cries all the tears*)

Cauliflower-Rice Stuffed Peppers

Well, the time has come.
I must lay aside my mixing cups, my sugar and flour, the almond and vanilla flavoring—it’s time to set aside the pastry and fruit, the chocolate, and cinnamon glaze. It is nearly September and this summer saw a bakery style transformation occur in my kitchen.
And somehow my closet also transformed.
All of my clothing shrunk.

Ahem.

But cooling evening temperatures and achingly blue skies are bringing out a desire for roasted root veggies and sage, soup, baked eggplant and zucchini, and a cleaner approach to life in the kitchen. It’s time.

Last September I did my first round of Whole 30. —For those unfamiliar with this, Whole 30 is essentially a month’s reprieve from processed food, grain, sugar, and alcohol. A reset. A month of whole-food eating. A gastronomical rest. It was the best thing I did for myself last fall. And I’m ready to do something good for myself again.
If you’re interested in jumping on that sort of bandwagon for a short period of time (read: do-able period of time) stick around. Most of the recipes you find here for the next thirty days will be Whole 30 compliant. But even if that’s not your jam, I promise the food you find here will be nourishing, tasty, and not overly-complicated, as always.

To get things off to a rolling start:

CAULIFLOWER-RICE STUFFED PEPPERS

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1 head of cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/4-1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to your taste preference
3-4 chicken thighs, cooked and diced fine
2-3 cups of baby greens
3-4 sweet peppers, color of your choice

Start with a batch of cauliflower rice.
I use a food processor for this, but you can also use a hand grader.
When whirled in a food processor or run over a grade, cauliflower transforms into ‘grains’ that resemble rice in texture, but of course, without the grain aspect Whole 30 and other clean eating methods avoid.

Take one head of cauliflower and whirl, or grate one small batch at a time, until the entire head has been transformed into “rice.” In a large sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat and cook diced onion and diced garlic until transparent. Add the cauliflower rice and work gently with a soft spatula over the heat until it cooks through. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the rice and then add the diced chicken thighs (or omit, if you prefer to avoid meat), and finally, add the baby greens. Continue mixing over heat until the greens begin to wilt and all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Remove from heat.

Slice the tops off the peppers and remove seeds from inside. Fill each pepper with cauliflower rice, place in a baking dish, and bake at 350-degrees for 25 minutes.

Serve warm.

oatmeal and flax breakfast muffins

Sometimes breakfast is about coffee.
Okay fine. Breakfast is mostly about coffee for me.
But once in a while, mornings call for something else.
Like muffins.
Sometimes they turn into cupcakes.
But other times they actually stay pretty darn healthy. And tasty. And if breakfast is going to be anything besides coffee (or cupcakes), then I guess this is a good option.
Enjoy!

OATMEAL AND FLAX BREAKFST MUFFINS

3 cups cooked oatmeal (steel cut is my favorite—great texture)
1/2 cup flax
1/2 cup applesauce
1 banana
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup greek yogurt
2 1/2 cups flour

These little guys are heavy like whoa. But they are incredibly satisfying and stick with you the way a nice bowl of oatmeal does. They work great on-the-go because they aren’t super crumbly. Which means I can distribute them to my back-of-the-car clan on our way to school when we are running a little behind. Even better, the sugar content in these muffins is almost zero—maple syrup, applesauce and bananas provide all the sweetness needed.

Begin by cooking up three cups of oatmeal. Just as you would if you were serving it by the bowl-full. Allow to cool and then scoop into a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Add the flax, applesauce, chopped banana, cinnamon, and salt.Mix until incorporated. Then add the eggs, baking powder and yogurt. Mix again. Finally blend in the flour until the batter is smooth. It will seem quite wet and sticky. Not to worry, the oatmeal, flax and eggs hold everything together. Too much flour will dry these little muffins out.

scoop 1/3 cup batter into well-greased muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until the muffins are golden across the top. Keep in mind they will not rise a great deal. Serve on their own or with a pat a butter and jam.

I’m draping you in purple

This could be an unpopular post. Forewarning. Also, it’s not really a foodie post. Ah well. Good to break format once in a while.

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Two things happened yesterday. A MUCH prayed for baby was born to a friend of mine—healthy and well, despite some early indications that it would not be so.
And the artist Prince died.

The contrast of these two things struck me this morning. I watched brief clips of people flooding the streets singing Prince’s music, weeping, while the city of Minneapolis draped itself in purple. And I thought how interesting it is, that we take so personally, so intimately, the loss of someone we never truly knew, because of how his work impacted our lives. And it made me think about how we value those around us.

Is value imparted because of how a person made us feel? Or because of the work they contributed to the world? Or because of who they knew? Is the life of Prince more valuable than the life of the baby that was born yesterday?

. . . My perspective is different because my heart was not tied to Prince’s music the way so many of my peer’s hearts are. He was amazing! And I am certain, now, that I missed out. I wish my teen years had been a little more touched by his work. But my perspective lends me a emotional distance. And here’s what I believe: Every life should be draped in purple.
Not because of what we bring with our accomplishments (or the lack of them). Not because of who we know (or don’t). Not because of the various social media votes we receive in all their numerous forms. But because of the intrinsic value placed on us from before the dawn of time by the hand of God. (This is the probably-unpopular part of the post I warned you about). I believe this with my whole heart. Every life, no matter how small, accomplished, flawed, broken, criminal, or deserving of death . . . no matter how celebrated, revered, awarded, or enthroned, has value. Only because God made it and God can redeem it. Even the very worst. Because, if I can’t believe this, then there is no hope. We are all capable of the very best—and the very worst.
So here’s what I’m doing today. I’m draping you all in purple. Every face I see today. Every voice I hear. Every man, woman, child, and unborn baby. I’m throwing that royal color around you in my heart and mind. Your life has intrinsic value. You are beautiful and loved and important. You are worth singing in the streets for. You are worth illuminated bridges and buildings.
You matter because God said so.
And I’m pretty sure He’s got a corner on the market when it comes to that kind of thing.
Right. I’m done. Off my soapbox.
Back to typical posts about my kitchen, things my kids say, and soup.
xo

Spiral skillet apples

Kitchen gadgets are like shoes. The more you have the more you need because you just never know when you might need that avocado cutter or counter-top garlic chopper! For real.
However. There are a few kitchen gadgets/appliances I’ve found it impossible to live without—especially as I am cooking for six people—breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And several of my tribe have food/eating issues. (See my previous post).

My food processor has been a Godsend in this regard, and lately I find myself using it almost everyday. It’s a hard worker and it covers everything from taking care of onions so I don’t have to cry (more than necessary) over the dinner-making process, to baby-food puree, sauces and dips, and even shredding meat for sandwiches! I love that thing.
But yesterday something arrived in the mail that may rival my love—at least in the veggie department.
You guys.
This. Thing.
Boom.

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I refer to it as my food processor’s pretty little sister.
Is that mean?
I don’t even know.
Anyway.

Now, I have a big kitchen and room for a few extras, the unnecessary luxury of a spiral vegetable slicer being one such thing. I’m a kitchen gadget nerd. That said, if you are trying to incorporate more veggies (or fruits!) into your diet, or your kids’ diets, this may be quite useful. I made zucchini noodles topped with a fried egg for lunch yesterday and my third-born ate it all. Now, she is normally a great eater (my one and only) but even that was stretching it for her. And yet the novelty of the noodles won over her sweet but occasionally-stubborn toddler heart.
And me? Well, I’m sold. In fact, here’s breakfast this morning:

SPIRAL SKILLET APPLES

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1 apple, (spiralized on the smallest-noodle setting)
1 small onion (also spiralized on the smallest-noodle setting)
1/4 c of finely-diced dried fruit (figs/prunes/appricots/rasins/craisins/etc)
1 Tablespoon clarified butter
Sprinkling of cinnamon to taste
In a medium-hot skillet, sauté dried fruit in butter until soft. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to soften and then the apple spirals.  Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover the skillet and bake until the apple is soft—no more than a couple minutes. Serve hot.

• Note: If you choose to forgo the spirals and just slice your apple, then follow all the same steps above. But dice the onions, and when you add the sliced apples, let them bake a few minutes longer in the covered skillet.