Sensational Soups: Roasted Butternut Squash Chowder with Sage Butter

As we move into these chilly fall and winter months, there’s nothing I love more than brewing up a big pot of homemade soup. The herby aroma wafting through the house, the steam warming up the kitchen, the inevitable leftovers…ah! It’s the best. So it’s no surprise I volunteered to review 300 Sensational Soups, a new cookbook by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds. If one pot of soup is good, 300 is excellent!

This extremely comprehensive book is full of winter cooking inspiration. While it would be easy to phone in some recipes in a cookbook this large, Sensational Soups os written with thoroughness and creativity. It starts out with a section on how to make your own stocks from scratch, then goes into chapters on a variety of soup categories such as chilled, garden vegetable, chowder, fish and shellfish, and cheese (a whole section purely about cheese-based soups?! I’m into!) The collection wraps up with a section on toppings and garnishes (which includes glorious ideas like grilled cheese croutons and maple cream). Truly something for everyone!

I had difficulty selecting just one recipe to review for this post, but I finally narrowed it down to chowder, one of my favorite soup subsets (soupsets?) I ended up going with the butternut squash chowder because it includes one of my favorite garnishes ever—fried sage leaves! My dining companions all agreed that drizzling the frying butter with the sage leaves on top was a major game changer. I also love how the recipe uses mashed squash to add thickness and texture instead of a massive amount of cream (although, don’t worry, there’s still a healthy amount of cream involved).

This soup was so comforting, so rich and velvety, and so flavorful! I will say that I made a few changes to the recipe—as with basically every soup, I doubled the recommended amount of spices, salt, and pepper. I also added an extra few squeezes of lemon. Oh, and clearly this chowder was begging for a sprinkle of cheese on top, so I grated up some nutty aged parmesan for garnish alongside the sage leaves and butter drizzle. I also highly condone serving with a hunk of crusty sourdough bread.

Roasted Butternut Squash Chowder with Sage Butter

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Stuffed Shell Weekend

When the temperature drops there are a lot of people who enjoy preparing and eating soups, stews and chilis. Me, I go straight for the Italian dishes! Pasta in a good meat sauce topped with cheese is my cold weather comfort food. So when the weekend arrives I like to prepare meals that will provide me with multiple nights’ worth of dinner options, like my stuffed shells in a vodka cream sauce.

This will make enough extra sauce that you can either freeze it or use it later in the week over rigatoni or spaghetti. And these shells are so filling that you’d better invite some friends over to help you eat this; otherwise you’re going to have it as leftovers for a good week!

Katt’s Stuffed Shells in Vodka Cream Sauce

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Best Use of Biscuits: Strawberry Shortcupcakes

It was sweltering in southern Minnesota, 98 degrees Fahrenheit with fifty percent humidity. I was put in charge of bringing dessert to a Fourth of July barbeque held by my best friend, his weirdo roommates and a handful of townies that I could never decide if I even liked, yet constantly yearned for their acceptance. Red white and blue cake seemed too obvious. Jell-O cake too lowbrow. I toyed with the idea of making lemonade cake, but quickly decided that would be a sticky mess in the July heat.

What could be more quintessentially American or summer than strawberry shortcake? I started pulling ingredients out of my cupboard and refrigerator. I sprayed a no-stick baking spray on some cupcake pans and quickly set to work mixing the ingredients for the shortcake biscuits. After baking, I removed the biscuits from the cupcake pans and let them cool on a rack. While the biscuits were cooling, I sliced some strawberries and set out to whip up some cream.

When I went to add powdered sugar to my chilled heavy whipping cream, I noticed that the container was crawling with ants—but not just any ants, SUPER ants. These were the ants that give you nightmares. The ones you envision carrying off an entire human body to their underground home. Then I realized they weren’t exactly moving. Did they suffocate in powdered sugar? If there was such a lack of oxygen, how did they even get inside the container? Were they smaller before gorging themselves to death on powdery confection? Did they OD on this fine, white, powdery substance?

I pulled myself together, calmed by the fact that they didn’t seem to be moving, and considered my next move.

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