28 March 2014

Elegance with ease!

After falling off the wagon a bit,  as far as sugar and grains go, it feels great to get back to more home cooking and less settling for things that make us feel a little blah, and for no good reason. Here are a couple of incredibly simple recipes for anyone who wants an easy, but hearty, meal complete with a rich, scrumptious dessert!

These recipes are both ideal for the whole family, and while the soup is a little more time consuming (about an hour total, with prep and cooking times) the ingredients are few and the effort needed is minimal, and the flavors develop beautifully giving the illusion of you slaving over a hot stove for hours. This divine dessert, on the other, quicker hand, is especially perfect for last minute guests, or a late night treat to share with your love! It looks and tastes as if it took all day to prepare, so no one has to know it takes mere minutes to prep and make!

Butternut Squash Soup with Ham

In a large pot (8 quart is good, but bigger is fine, too.) sauté:
1 small yellow onion, diced small
½ stick unsalted butter
until the onions start to become translucent.

While the onions are cooking, rough chop:
2 cups ham
and add to the onions. 

Season with pinch of sea salt (not too much because the ham adds a nice amount of salt) and a few pinches of fresh cracked pepper.

Let the ham and onion mixture cook for a few minutes, then add:
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed then chopped into about 1" cubes
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 tsp garlic powder 
2 tsp dry dill 
2 tsp cracked black pepper

Let this mixture simmer about 15-20 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until squash is softened. Once softened, use an immersion blender to blend the soup for a couple of minutes, keeping in mind it doesn't need to be completely smooth. Just blend to your personally desired consistency. If you don't have an immersion blender, just use a potato masher to break up the big chunks of squash. I like to keep the texture of the squash while the little bit of blending gives a creamy texture as well. 

Once you've blended/mashed the squash, add:
1 small bag of frozen peas and carrots, or just peas if you prefer.

Let the mixture cook on medium-high for 15 minutes or until the peas are cooked through, but not overdone. Taste to ensure your seasoning is all set, add salt or pepper if needed and enjoy! This recipe will serve 4-6.

This is a very filling meal for those nights when you've been out on the soccer field on a cold night, perfect after that long evening commute. This would also be a great starter, or lovely served in a lunch portion with a salad on the side. 

And for the easiest dessert, that is completely from scratch, ever!

Microwave Dark Chocolate Cake

Grease and flour a microwave-safe 8" square dish

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together:
1 cup almond flour
1 ½ tbsp coconut flour 
1 ½ tbsp tapioca flour
⅔ cup coconut sugar or granulated honey
⅓ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp sea salt

After whisking the dry ingredients together, add and mix well:
2 eggs
3 tbsp olive oil
½ cup full fat plain yogurt

Mix well, making sure all the dry ingredients are completely incorporated. Pour into the greased pan and sprinkle on top:
¼ cup mini or regular dark chocolate chips

Cook in microwave for 5 minutes. 
Done. Really! It's that easy! You can serve warm as is, or add fresh whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. For a little extra indulgence, add a little warm caramel or some fresh berries. 
This recipe makes 4 servings. 

A couple of notes about the recipes: 
For the ham in the soup, I used a great find which was a package of cut ends from spiral ham, found right along with the other ham in the grocery store meat case. You could use regular chopped ham, turkey ham, thick cut bacon or pancetta in place. Also, I used butternut squash that was in my freezer. I bought a few when they were a great deal, peeled, seeded and cubed them and put them in the freezer for things like this!

With the dessert, if you have nut allergies, or prefer to use regular flour, you can sub 1 cup regular baking flour for all the flours listed in my recipe. Also, you can replace the coconut sugar with brown sugar, and the yogurt can be replaced with ⅓ cup of buttermilk.

I hope you enjoy trying these tasty recipes! I certainly enjoy creating and trying them out, and my family loves that part too as they're my best taste-testers. 

Hopefully, I'll get around to that sharing that chili recipe next post!

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