Smokin' Hot 'Golden' Squash Soup

Did you cook anything in honor of the legendary Betty White this week? I made a super spicy & smoky butternut squash soup on Tuesday, which just happened to coincide with my favorite (after Sophia) Golden Girl’s 90th birthday. For all the smokin’ hot 90-somethings…this one’s for you Betty, and my Grandmother Florence (who has you beat at 92).

Smokin’ Hot ‘Golden’ Squash Soup

Makes around 2 quarts, 4-6 servings

  • 2 T Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika (up to 1 tsp for more heat)
  • 6 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plain whole milk or Greek yogurt
  1. In a 4-qt pot, heat oil to medium and cook onion until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir until it begins to darken slightly, a few minutes. Add the hot smoked Paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  2. Add the squash, water, and 1/2 tsp salt; stir. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook uncovered 30 minutes. Puree with immersion blender or traditional blender (if using traditional blender, allow space for steam to escape out of lid). Add additional salt to taste.
  3. Garnish each bowl with a spoonful of yogurt, and a sprinkle of smoked paprika if desired.

No one has been snacking on this granola more than our cold-stricken toddler–she is refusing all food but fruit and milk and is partial to these dried cranberries. I’m hopeful every time she pulls out a cranberry, some oats cling to the sides for extra sustenance.

I grew up eating cinnamon in my yogurt, so I’m enjoying this cinnamon-laced granola with a few scoops of plain whole milk yogurt (stealing my daughter’s yogurt is OK when she’s sick and can’t protest).  Try some extra shakes of cinnamon on top, it will make you happy when the winter weather does not.

Granola with Dried Cranberries, Coconut and Cinnamon

makes 10 cups

  • 6 C old-fashioned oats
  • 2 T butter, melted
  • 1/4 C canola oil
  • 2/3 C honey
  • 1/3 C maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 T sesame seeds
  • 1 C chopped almonds
  • 1/2 C flaked coconut
  • 1 C dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 300. In an extra-large mixing bowl, mix the oats, butter, oil, honey, maple syrup, vanilla, sesame seeds, nuts, coconut and cranberries. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and salt and combine.
  2. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly coat with cooking spray. Divide granola between the two sheets & spread in an even layer to corners. Bake for 15 minutes; rotate pans front to back and top to bottom.  Bake another 10 minutes then check for color. When evenly golden, remove from oven and stir granola with spatula. Cool on pan. Once completely cool, transfer to an airtight container.

Alce Nero Yogurt & Honey Cookies

You’re going to want an organic Yogurt & Honey Cookie from Italian company Alce Nero:

I know parents can be cautious about introducing cookies & other sweets to their toddler, but I think I’ve found one parent & tot can share together. I grab these crunchy Italian versions of shortbread from our neighborhood Italian shop, Brancaccio’s. The ingredient list is short, identifiable & organic: wheat flour, brown sugar, extra virgin olive oil, yogurt, honey, baking soda/powder, salt.

One cookie has just over 1g (1/4 tsp) of sugar, equivalent to a child’s serving of Cheerios (here kid, have a snack that won’t spill all over the floor, stroller, Mom’s bag…). The label describes them as “delicious and light, ideal for a healthy breakfast.” Cookies for breakfast, I love the Italians.

Alce Nero also makes a whole grain Farro and a Kamut chocolate chip cookie that I’ll try next, when available. Seriously, good luck finding these. I included a link for purchase on Amazon, but they are on short supply. Apparently, Mario Batali sells this brand at his palatial food court, Eataly; but, word has it that his large orders leave a scant amount for smaller city shops. If anyone spots these in the borough of Brooklyn, give me a shout!

I'll take that cookie now!

A Bean-y Baby

January 9, 2012

5-way chili, Cincinnati-style

We had another new word over the holidays: BEE, as in bean, and our toddler says it loudly and proudly. If I remember correctly, she decided she loves beans and Brussels Sprouts on the same day, which is a lot of health for one small GI tract.

For New Years Day I made Cincinnati-style chili. I first tasted this Midwestern chili last year while recipe testing and loved it.  If you are new to this style, it has a ground beef base, the unique seasonings of cinnamon and cocoa and is served over spaghetti with grated cheddar on top. This is your classic “3-way” chili. You can also top it with chopped onion (“4-way”) and kidney beans (“5-way”). It is cooked down to a thick, sauce-like consistency…from what I’ve read, also perfect for topping hot dogs.

I served ours “5-way,” wanted the full experience. My daughter ate it layer by layer–savoring the beans, tossing the onions, and shoveling in the spaghetti–while the rest of us dug in our forks and twirled for a perfectly-layered bite.

Cincinnati Chili

(adapted from

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (reserve half for topping)
  • 1 # grass-fed ground beef, 85% or leaner
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T chili powder (1 tsp regular chili powder+ 2 tsp Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming, an ancho-chipotle-jalepeno blend)
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 T unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12 oz dried spaghetti
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
  • 1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, rinsed, room temperature
  1. In a large frying pan (12″), saute half of the onion, beef, garlic and chili powder until beef is just cooked. Break up beef to as fine a mince as possible.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients (through water) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered 1-1 1/2 hours, or until sauce has thickened, but is still thin enough to coat pasta.
  3. Cook spaghetti according to package directions and divide onto 4 plates. Spoon chili over spaghetti and top with cheese, reserved onions and beans.

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Pickled herring, egg salad and bad posture: 2012 is sure shaping up to be “Year of the Granny.” Since the new year, I’ve shared Shelsky’s pickled herring with my folks, made several batches of egg salad, and have resolved to go to bed in the 10pm range. I’m also up before dawn every day, so I’m earning that granny badge!

2011 took it out of me. I spent most of last year hunched over…my little person, the stove, strollers, my blackberry. I put all my energies into stay-at-home mothering with very little relief in the form of grandparents, babysitters or vacations (sometimes I’d convince myself that cooking without a toddler underfoot was very much like a vacation). Which brings me to tight budgets and living over a thousand miles from your family=really tough. But single-income economics was, and continues to be, a fun game of strategy for my husband and I. When you succeed at living simply it is a bit exhilarating. We really should run a weekend seminar on the ins and outs of stretching the dollar in this not-so-cheap city.

As for family meals last year…a little blurry since I failed t0 document most of them on this here blog; but, I cooked plenty. It was budget-conscious and heavy on the Trader Joe’s supplements. (fyi, I fell hard for Trader Joes last year. If you don’t understand the appeal of TJ’s, please talk to me. We schlep there and back on the subway like pack mules for a reason. Even though I hate every second of the schlepping part. Their canned smoked trout whipped up with Hellman’s original mayo is some of the best white fish salad I never knew I could make (granny badge earned!)

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I was really, really tired last year. We ate, but hardly slept. Facebook-ing was far easier than blogging, and there was some good stuff on TV (Parenthood, Breaking Bad, Dexter). Cooking for my family was a lot of muscle memory, but I usually found some small joy in each meal. Especially watching my toddler’s face when taking the first bite of a new food. When she liked it, pure joy, and relief. When she did not, and spat out the food, and proceeded to scrape her tongue of any lasting, horrible flavor, it still made me smile.

So 11.5 months to go to fix my slouch, create new recipes, and share the successes here. And if you don’t hear from me for an extended period of time, I sure as hell hope I’m somewhere on vacation.