Butternut squash soup with pancetta and pasta

Soup with pancetta and pasta

In these lingering winter/cloudy days, I’ve been enjoying this delicious soup. I love a good, hearty soup, and this recipe fits the bill. Butternut squash is my go to vegetable for soup, so I try to do something new every time.

Ingredients:
  • 4 oz. pancetta, chopped
  • small handful fresh sage leaves, whole
  • 3 cups peeled, seeded, & cubed butternut squash (half inch cubes or somewhere thereabouts)*
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 lb. pasta of your choice— fettucine or linguine (I used spiral pasta)
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • to serve: Pecorino or Parmesan or the hard, salty cheese of your choice
Instructions:

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the pancetta until it is crisp, stirring occasionally.  Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a small bowl. Add more oil to the skillet if needed and quick-fry the sage leaves for just a minute or two until they are crisp, then transfer to the same bowl as the pancetta.

In the same skillet that you just cooked the pancetta & sage in (delicious flavor in there!), cook the squash, onion, and garlic over medium heat.  Stir occasionally until the onion is translucent, then add the broth.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until the squash is soft and the liquid has reduced considerably, about 15-20 minutes.

Allow the squash to cool a bit, then use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. (Alternately, you can transfer to a conventional blender, but if you do this, you will need to let the squash cool a bit longer first.)  Taste and season the mixture with salt & pepper.

Cook your pasta until al dente—you will be cooking it a bit more in the next step, so don’t over-cook it now!  Drain the pasta and reserve about a half cup of cooking liquid.  In the same old big skillet, combine the pasta, squash puree, and ¼ cup of the cooking liquid and cook over medium heat, tossing everything around until the sauce coats the pasta.  (Add more cooking liquid as needed to thin the sauce.)  This step should only take a few minutes.

Remove from heat and crumbled the pancetta and sage over the skillet, plus a generous amount of

Butternut squash soup with pancetta and pasta

Soup with pancetta and pasta

In these lingering winter/cloudy days, I’ve been enjoying this delicious soup. I love a good, hearty soup, and this recipe fits the bill. Butternut squash is my go to vegetable for soup, so I try to do something new every time.

Ingredients:
  • 4 oz. pancetta, chopped
  • small handful fresh sage leaves, whole
  • 3 cups peeled, seeded, & cubed butternut squash (half inch cubes or somewhere thereabouts)*
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 lb. pasta of your choice— fettucine or linguine (I used spiral pasta)
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • to serve: Pecorino or Parmesan or the hard, salty cheese of your choice
Instructions:

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the pancetta until it is crisp, stirring occasionally.  Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a small bowl. Add more oil to the skillet if needed and quick-fry the sage leaves for just a minute or two until they are crisp, then transfer to the same bowl as the pancetta.

In the same skillet that you just cooked the pancetta & sage in (delicious flavor in there!), cook the squash, onion, and garlic over medium heat.  Stir occasionally until the onion is translucent, then add the broth.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until the squash is soft and the liquid has reduced considerably, about 15-20 minutes.

Allow the squash to cool a bit, then use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. (Alternately, you can transfer to a conventional blender, but if you do this, you will need to let the squash cool a bit longer first.)  Taste and season the mixture with salt & pepper.

Cook your pasta until al dente—you will be cooking it a bit more in the next step, so don’t over-cook it now!  Drain the pasta and reserve about a half cup of cooking liquid.  In the same old big skillet, combine the pasta, squash puree, and ¼ cup of the cooking liquid and cook over medium heat, tossing everything around until the sauce coats the pasta.  (Add more cooking liquid as needed to thin the sauce.)  This step should only take a few minutes.

Remove from heat and crumbled the pancetta and sage over the skillet, plus a generous amount of cheese!

Ramen noodles with caramelized pork, roasted acorn squash, carrots and mushrooms

Ramen

This is one of my new favorite recipes because the cost for the amount of food is very low. And it’s delicious! I love slow roasting meats, so this does take some time, but it is SO worth it.

Instructions

  • 2-3 pounds pork shoulder roast (or butt)
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth, plus more of needed
  • 1/4-1/2 cup + 2-4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce (or boullion)
  • 1/4 cup + 2-4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons thai curry paste (red or green is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five spice
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 cups wild mushrooms, left whole – or button mushrooms, sliced (cremini, button, etc. will work)
  • 4 packs Ramen noodles, seasoning packets discarded
  • 4 soft boiled or fried eggs, for serving
  • Chopped carrots, sliced jalapenos, cilantro + green onions, for serving

Curry Roasted Acorn Squash

  • 1 medium acorn squash, seeded + diced
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil (like canola)
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (I use spicy curry)
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

Add the pork to a large roasting dish. Pour the chicken broth, 1/4-1/2 cup soy sauce (depending on your taste), 1/4 cup rice vinegar and fish sauce over the pork. Add the thai curry paste, ginger, juice of 1 lime, Chinese five spice powder, black pepper and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Place in the oven at 175 degrees and cook for 7-8 hours.

About 40 minutes before you are ready to eat, roast the squash. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl mix together the oil, curry powder, miso, brown sugar and a good pinch of pepper. Add the cubed squash to a greased baking sheet and pour the curry mixture over the squash. Toss well. Bake for 30-40 minutes, tossing a couple of times during cooking. You want the squash to be lightly browned and crisp.

Meanwhile, check on the pork by using a meat thermometer. When the temperature reaches about 140 degrees, remove from the oven, let the meat cool enough, and using a fork and large knife, cut the meat into cubes.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sesame oil. Once hot, add enough pork to cover just the surface of your skillet, do not over crowd the skillet. Sprinkle a little brown sugar over the pork, add 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, toss. Allow the pork to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Stir and allow the pork to continue to caramelize, about 3-5 minutes total. Remove the pork from the skillet, repeat with the remaining pork. Keep the pork warm.

Add the veggies to the same skillet used for the pork and cook for about 4-5 minutes.

Bring two pots to a boil and add the Ramen noodles in one, and the eggs in another.  Cook the noodles for about 2-3 minutes, then drain. Cook the eggs for about 8 minutes, cool and peel.

Once everything is ready, mix the noodles with the pork and veggies. Stir in some more rice vinegar, sesame oil and maybe a little sriracha or soy sauce if you have it or prefer it. Spoon the noodles on the the plate, and top with jalapenos, onions, eggs and cilantro.

Scarves and souffles

hat and scarf

This weekend was very cold and dreary. Cold for this early on in Texas. Richard was in town and brought Apollo, so we had a full day yesterday trying to wear him out. We took him on a run when we finally got ourselves out of bed. I wanted to take him to PetSmart to get him a Christmas collar, but it was so busy that they had run out already and had not yet restocked. So I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t get my Christmas photo with him! But then we moved on and bundled up even more and took him to Mutt’s Cantina so Apollo could run around the dog park, learning to socialize with other dogs. Richard and I enjoyed some hot dogs and watched football on the screens they had there. We stuck it out in the cold as long as possible. Apollo still gets nervous around other dogs but we think he made a few new friends.

But what I was really looking forward to was our Sunday Fun Day. I wanted to go check out Rise No. 1 because they mainly serve souffles, and I have heard many great things about it. It was the perfect restaurant to warm all my insides on a chilly day, and I was impressed from the moment we walked in the door. The place smelled absolutely amazing. Friends told me I needed to order the marshmallow soup, which is their take on the tomato bisque, but they make their own small goat cheese souffles they use as the “marshmallows.” We ordered the truffle mushroom souffle, and one that was off the menu which I highly recommend: their cauliflower souffle with brie. The brie was so melty and delicious in the center of the souffle. Then we ordered the cranberry champagne dessert souffle. I was in heaven.

After lunch we walked around doing a little more Christmas shopping. I stay bundled up and warm in my comfy scarf and hat!

souffle dessert souffle meal

hat scarf and apollo

Products:

Spaghetti squash with mushrooms, Parmesan and parsley

squash

I don’t normally shop at Whole Foods, but I went the other day because I had a gift card. I was reminded of why I don’t normally shop there. Everything is so overpriced, and for it being a “whole” foods store, their produce section was actually quite small, while aisles of processed foods took over the majority of the store. I couldn’t even find spaghetti squash, which is very in season right now, so I still had to make an extra stop at Kroger.

This is especially weighing on my mind as I recently watched a documentary on GMOs called, “GMO, OMG” that showed how GMOs are still present in one of the largest health food chains, (Whole Foods). You should check it out. The documentary was very eye-opening. In actuality, it’s very hard to shop for non-GMO foods unless you mainly get your produce from a farmer’s market, which I know isn’t an option for our busy schedules or budgets, but it is worth thinking about what you put into your body, and the steps you might be able to take, however small they may be, to a more healthy lifestyle.

OK, now that I’m off of my soap box, we can get to the good stuff. I love spaghetti squash as an alternative to pastas, but I have never made spaghetti squash quite like this before. You might not normally expect all the flavors to go together, but somehow they come together to create pure magic. I could eat sauteed mushrooms all day, but combined with the squash and Parmesan cheese, with just the hint of parsley…. just perfection. I also made ahead the mushrooms and baked the squash on Sunday, so all I had to do for a week night meal was reheat it in the oven to cook it all the way through. It saved me some time, as I’m normally very hungry when I get home.

Ingredients

  • 1 small spaghetti squash (about 3lbs)
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups button mushrooms, roughly chopped (about 20 mushrooms, 8oz)
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 380Fº

Put the spaghetti squash on a baking tray and bake for about an hour, until squash can be pierced with a knife.

In a deep skillet (or large pan), add olive oil, garlic and thyme. Cook for 2 minutes over high heat and add mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are golden brown. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Take squash out of the oven and let cool to room temperature. Cut in half and get rid of the seeds. Use a fork to scrape the squash into strings.

Add squash to the skillet (or pan), turn the heat to high and quickly fry with mushrooms. Sprinkle parmesan while sauteing for a minute.

Turn the heat off, season with salt and pepper and serve warm.

If you want to make ahead and save for later, I put the squash mixture back into the squash with the mushrooms, and set aside the cheese and the parsley. When I was ready to bake, I put the squash in a baking dish and covered it with foil and let it warm in the oven for about 25 minutes. When it was ready, I mixed in the cheese and parsley.

Spinach, avocado, goat and mozzarella cheese sandwich with spinach pesto

goat cheese panini

Today I’m feeling pretty great. The weather outside is gorgeous, and I’m on a high from a horned frogs win from yesterday! That’s right, we beat Kansas State, who was at the top of our conference. We had some great plays, making TCU a fun team to watch. Trevone Boykin even did a front flip into the end zone for a touchdown. So proud of my team!

Aside from football rivalries, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. With the holidays coming up, I’m thinking about what special recipes I can make or how I can decorate. I’ve had a shopping bug recently and started making my holiday wish list. Also, I have been pinning home decor ideas like crazy on Pinterest, ready for a makeover. What’s a girl to do with all these ideas flowing through her head?!

Cook of course!

And I found this idea for an adult grilled cheese sandwich, and I said yes, yes, yes! However, I did cook it on a panini machine to make it a healthier option, especially since I ate a full meal at Velvet Taco yesterday. But if you’re in the mood for a grilled cheese, go for it by heating some butter in a skillet and frying it on both sides for a few minutes.

This option, however, is freakin’ awesome. :)

Spinach, avocado, goat and mozzarella cheese sandwich

  • 2 slices of bread (your choice, white, wheat, whole grain)
  • 1 oz goat cheese
  • 1 oz mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 handful spinach
  • slather on this pesto on the bread – I substituted spinach for the kale since I already bought spinach to go on the sandwich

Throw all the ingredients on the bread, and place on a panini press for about two minutes.

It’s that easy!

Wish list

Decorating ideas

 

Natural makeover

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I know this looks like a complete departure from all the other posts on my blog, but I am passionate about a healthy lifestyle, and cooking meals from scratch is just one part of it. I also exercise daily, seek and research natural beauty products, and have even started making my own home products and cleaners. My goal for this blog is to share these habits so that others can start to learn more about a wholesome lifestyle. I, too, am still learning as I go along, and will share that information as I receive it.

Like anyone else, I never paid much attention to what is in the products we use every day. I might have been more likely to buy products that said they don’t do animal testing, but in reality, that’s just one small part of it. Like food, if you can’t pronounce the ingredient or don’t recognize it, you probably shouldn’t be putting it in or on your body. Whatever you put in your stomach or on the surface of your skin eventually gets absorbed to your blood stream and is in your system.

Go ahead, say it. I sound like one of those crazy health people. I know. But honestly, it is really very easy to make your own food and products or buy more natural beauty products. I know we’re at a point where it seems like basically everything is a cause of cancer, but my mentality is, if I can minimize the amount of chemicals I come in contact with now, even if it’s not affecting me immediately, why not take steps for a better future?

That being said, I am still on the search for beauty products that are natural and eco-friendly. Most of the home products are easy enough to make, so I will be sharing those recipes. So my blog will keep the same name, Alice In Cookingland, it will just be a more variety of things I “cook” up – to include DIY products, etc.

I am now in the transition of phasing out some of my old make up with new, natural products. A product line I found that I like so far is by Josie Maran. Below are the products that I have been using and I just love!

I had been wanting to switch my foundation to a tinted moisturizer, one reason being I really don’t need that heavy layer for my  every day look. A tinted moisturizer gives me just what I need: moisture and evenness. I really love the glow this moisturizer gives me!

Also, I had never tried a liquid blush before, so I was a bit skeptical at first about how it would look, how long it would last, etc. But the cream actually lasts all day, and I love how easy it is to blend. Perfect for my busy mornings when I’m rushing out the door! It’s also great to store in my purse for a quick touch-up if I’m going to happy hour or dinner after work.

Have you tried any natural products you enjoy?

Products shown:

 Today was a rainy day. Glad I had my make up to brighten my face, and my new outfit keeping me cozy!

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Products: