Monday, October 26, 2009

Autumn Tortilla Soup

This was a big hit with the Dinner Group. The leftovers even received great praise from my roommates and coworkers. It's a perfect warm-your-heart meal for colder autumn days. It was colorful, filling and delicious. I served it with apple cider, pesto bread salad and a "healthy"apple tart.

Autumn Tortilla Soup (I modified the recipe from one in Cuisine at Home magazine.)
1 butternut squash (2 lbs)
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1 C chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves
1 jalapeno, seeded (this doesn't make it spicy...if you want that, leave in the seeds)
2 TBSP canola oil
3 corn tortillas, cut into strips
2 C chopped Roma tomatoes
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 1/2 TBSP ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
6 C chicken broth
1 lb. kielbasa sausage (can also use turkey sausage)
6 oz spinach
1 can (15 oz) white hominy, drained
salt and pepper

Lime Cream
1/2 C sour cream
1 TBSP lime juice
zest from 1 lime
1 tsp ground cumin

Half the butternut squash, remove seeds, brush with 1 TBSP canola oil and place on baking pan in oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 min. Cool until easy to handle. Peel and dice.

While squash bakes, finely chop onion, garlic, jalapeno and corn together. Heat tortilla strips in stock pot until crisp. Remove a handful of them to use as garnish at the end. Add 1 TBSP oil and corn mixture and cook a few minutes until fragrant. Add in cumin, chili powder, tomatoes and tomato paste and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in broth and 1/2 of the squash, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 min. Use hand blender in pot to blend until smooth. Brown sausage in skillet until well-cooked through.

Stir in remaining squash cubes, sausage, and hominy. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 min. Mix ingredients for lime cream in small bowl and set aside.

Stir in spinach into soup 1-2 minutes before serving. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with lime cream and crunchy tortilla strips. Makes about 12 cups.

Butterfly in cedar city

I got to take a weekend to go to Cedar City and visit Missy, Sammy, and Lucy. We had such fun! Missy and I pulled out our thrifty and crafty skills and made Lucy a beautiful butterfly costume. (that only cost about $3).
Isn't she a cutie!

i wanna play the trumpet!

Picture caption contest
It's always fun to try and guess what babies are thinking.
Sorry if some of you were disappointed to have to wait so long to hear the winner of the last picture contest...Kimi definitely won. The scoliosis comment was hilarious. Kimi is my sweet sister and has always been naturally funny, with either a quick wit, or random comments about the interesting world she lives in. She has a way of getting me to laugh so hard that I cannot even breathe. My family really misses her when she's not around. I love the fact that she lives so close to me now!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hot Air Ballooning

I have a fascination with my friends will well attest. I love climbing up rocks, hiking up mountains, flying in planes, etc. and find any opportunity to do so. For some reason, I have no problem being up high in the air...I would, in fact, rather be a mile up in the sky than a few feet under water. (I'm one of the few people that even struggles with snorkeling-I will do it, but I don't enjoy it).
My friend Kasey and I have been talking about doing a hot air balloon ride for a long time. It just so happens to be on both of our bucket lists. This fall, I made sure it happened. What an experience. I LOVED every minute of it.

It was the most beautiful weather. The leaves were bright and colorful. The air was crisp. The balloon just floated peacefully along. There were friends, pictures, laughter and lots and lots of open blue sky. Heaven!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I LOVE babies. I always have. Even as a child, I would be immediately drawn to the baby in the room. I love holding them (especially the ones that will cuddle right up to you) and feeling their sweet spirit and pureness. You can't help but melt when they look right into your eyes or when they peacefully drift into sleep.
Meet my 3 favorite babies at the moment: Lucy, Vetinia, and Kalea. These nieces of mine were all born within a couple weeks of each other. I love you girls!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

added recipe

Ok, folks. I added the recipes down below. Tell me how they turn out for you!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tikka Masala

Ben's birthday dinner request was Tikka Masala (an indian dish). I'd probably tasted it or something like it before but I definitely had to look up recipes. Note the plurality of that last noun. A tip to the wise. Never just look up just ONE recipe for something new you are trying. Get the feel for the different versions and make the one that sounds the best. Read reviews from other cooks or get recommendations for recipes from other "foodies" you may know. This will give you a much better chance at success your first attempt! It turned out delicious. Just enough kick to make your nose run but not too much that your mouth burned for hours after. I also tried a couple recipes at naan bread. (Emeril can cook almost anything but his naan recipe was not even close). I was so glad i tried another version after I read more reviews and got nervous. Anyone interested in the recipes I used?

Tikka Masala (adapted from Yakutas recipe on

1 C plain yogurt
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp black pepper
1 TBSP minced fresh ginger
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces

1 TBSP butter
2 cloves minced garlic
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped and seeded (unless you want real fire)
4 tsp ground cumin
4 tsp paprika
1 TBSP salt
12 oz tomato sauce (i actually used leftover tomato/roaster red pepper soup)
1 (14 oz) can light coconut milk
1/4 C chopped cilantro (garnish)

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the marinate and then stir in chicken. Refrigerate for at least 1 hr (even better if you let it sit overnight). Take out chicken pieces and cook in skillet or grill pan (or if you want to use a real grill, you'd need to skewer the pieces so they don't fall through the holes). Cook about 5 min. each side until cooked through).

Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and jalapeno for 1 min. Season with spices, stir in tomato sauce and coconut milk. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 20 min. Add chicken and simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve with rice and garnish with fresh cilantro. (makes 4 servings)
**I thought it had a good kick but was not unbearably spicy. If you don't handle spicy food well, cut out half the cayenne and jalapeno.

Naan (adapted from Mic's recipe on
1/2 package (.25 oz) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 1/2 TBSP white sugar
2 TBSP milk
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 C flour
1 1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 TBSP butter

In small cup, dissolve yeast in warm water, let stand about 5 min, until frothy. Sift 2-1/2 Cups flour, salt and sugar in large bowl. Add yeast, milk and egg to make soft dough. Knead on well floured surface for about 6-8 min. Place dough in well oiled bowl, cover, and set aside to rise (preferrably in a warm place) until dough has doubled in volume (about 1 1/2 hrs). Pinch off smal handfuls of dough about size of golf balls and place on tray. Cover with towel and allow to rise 30 more min.

Preheat grill or grill pan over high heat. Lightly oil grill. Roll out ball of dough into thin circle. Place dough on grill and cook for 2-3 in. Brush uncooked side with butter and sprinkle with garlic powder. Turn over and cook other side for 2-3 min. Brush cooked side with butter and garlic powder. Remove from grill and serve immediately. (makes 8 servings)

The end was a "wee" dessert. Neither of us can eat a lot of dessert-type foods. Here is a simple way to keep the yumminess of the "real thing" (no modified ingredients to make lower sugar/fat, etc) by cutting down portion. I used mini muffin/cupcake pans and a melon baller for the ice cream mini scoops. Individual pudding cups give enough to use as frosting for a few cakes (especially if heated first). I added a few cherries for garnish. (I froze a pound of sweet cherries this summer so I would have them on hand for occasions like this). ok say's so cute. Or as rachel 'n jeff would's so wee.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

pic of the week

Pic of the Week

It's another Tuesday Caption Contest!

Last week's winner was Rachel!!! She is a very loyal blog follower and participant (and winner of blog contests...she actually has a blog that talks about all the cool stuff out there you can win. check it out at She is a very thrifty mom and wonderful sister! I have a hard time going very many days without talking to her. Her caption definitely made me laugh. I'm sure Ben would appreciate the Simpsons reference as well.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup

My two favorite things about autumn are: seeing the beautiful leaves and soup season. The cold weather now makes it legal again to make soup! I admit it is my favorite things to cook. Not the I-pulled-out-a-can-of-campbells soup, but homemade, smell-the-simmering-goodness-all-the-way-upstairs soups.
On my quest to find the perfect butternut squash soup, I came across this recipe (well a version of this recipe-i made it better). Why would I be searching for something like that, you ask? Well, it just so happens that my counter is taken over by butternut squash every autumn and I get the fun task of finding ways to use it. I really don't mind, I like a challenge...and it's yummy :)

My mind was stuck in a rut that butternut squash soup should incorporate apples. It just made sense. The autumn flavors should go perfect together, blending sweet with wonderfulness that is butternut squash. Unfortunately, I've tried several versions but had yet to find the recipe that balanced it well-they often turned out too apple-y or blah. This recipe, however, used orange. I resisted the idea for a while, immediately thinking of ways to change it to apple, but then I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. Oh Happy Day. I was actually impressed with the flavor combinations there. The red pepper stuff gave it an extra little flair that I enjoyed. I will use this recipe now, until I find another one that seems close to the perfect one conjured up in my imagination.

Try it's pretty easy, too! (and doesn't require any special equipment)

Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium size butternut squash
2 TBSP olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped onions (I used combo of red, white and green)
4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp orange zest
1/2 cup orange juice (juice the orange you used for the zest)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup roasted red pepper sauce or soup (i just used pre-made soup)
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Cut butternut squash in half and lay in baking dish, facing up. Brush with olive oil and bake in oven at 475 degrees for 45 min. When done, scoop out flesh with spoon. Saute garlic and onions w/olive oil in a large saute pan until soft. Add chicken broth, orange juice and butternut squash flesh. Bring to a boil. Puree soup with food processor or blender (I used a handheld blender right in the pot). Add thyme and most of orange zest. Add a dollop of sour cream and red pepper sauce and swirl in. Garnish with a few red pepper flakes, fresh thyme sprigs and reserved zest. Makes 5-6, 1 cup servings.