With Thanksgiving over, all the turkey consumed, and just a few measly crumbs of stuffing left in the pan, I can officially say that I am 100% in the Christmas spirit right now. The holiday season is definitely my favorite time of year. Not the actual day of Christmas per say, but rather the time leading up to the holiday itself. I feel that the day of is hectic and kind of a blur. In an instant, it’s over before you feel like it truly began. The season leading up to Christmas is different, though. It’s festive, fun, and exciting. The days leading up to it gives you more time to embrace the season fully. I love being able to decorate my apartment in twinkling lights and garland, baking holiday cookies in the kitchen with Momma Crawford, and watching endless holiday television specials under a warm blanket drinking hot chocolate. It’s this time of year, where the days are chilly and the nights are long, that I crave something warm and comforting to eat. In the winter, I love turning on the oven and roasting seasonal vegetables, filling the apartment with warm, aromatic scents. Squash is such an easy ingredient to work with and tastes delicious in a variety of dishes, especially in soup. To say goodbye to the autumn season and hello to the long winter months ahead, I have teamed with Hodgson Mill once again to bring you a great “grain” recipe that will get you through the coldest of days.
I feel like I’ve been on a “sweets” kick for the past few months. I can’t seem to help myself, I have a sweet tooth. Chocolate speaks to me. Butter whispers sweet nothings in my ear. And one look from sugar and I’m sunk. They say to me, “Nate, eat me.” There are so many delicious savory dishes I want to develop and share with you all. In 2017, I truly want to get comfortable shooting more savory dishes. Throughout this year, I’ve been noticing myself using baked goods as a crutch for my photography. Why? I think it’s because I have grown to love baking. It relaxes me. Whenever I’m feeling stressed, angry, sad, or happy, I bake. It helps me process through things and it teaches me to slow down and appreciate the present moment. So I’m just going to have to put on my big boy photographer pants and start practicing shooting savory dishes.
Sooooo minestrone. Call we just talk about it for a second? It is such an easy soup to put together and I can't get enough of it. I was inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Summer Minestrone recipe (which is so perfect on a warm summer day). Except for this recipe, I wanted to use some produce of the current season meaning I needed to get my hands on some butternut squash and McIntosh apples. For the grains, Hodgson Mill has this quinoa and brown rice Italian blend which cooked beautifully in the warm soup, blending perfectly with all the other flavors. What I love most about this dish is how easy it is to put together. Prepare the mirepoix (consisting of onions, carrots, celery, and leeks), then toss in all the other ingredients and simmer until the apples and squash are fork tender and the grains are cooked through. So easy! It’s so warm and hearty with rich, deep herbal flavors. I had a few white cheddar & chive scones left over from a shoot I did for Clabber Girl, so I decided to incorporate them into the meal. Such a good idea! Image a cheddar bay style biscuit dipped in this rich, flavorful soup. Sound good doesn't it? It makes me want to wrap up in a warm blanket and sit by the fire. So bring on your worst Central Illinois, this soup will keep any person toasty all winter long.
Winter Squash & Apple Minestrone with Quinoa & Brown Rice
Original recipe adapted from the New York Times
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 leek, halved, cleaned well, and sliced thin
3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced
2-3 apples (I used McIntosh), diced (and peeled, if desired)
1-2 fresh tomatoes, diced
30 oz. tomato juice
2 ¾ cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 (5 oz.) package of Hodgson Mill Gluten Free Quinoa & Brown Rice, Italian Mix
2 teaspoons fresh sage, minced
1 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons garlic powder
¼ cup parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in the onions, carrot, and celery. Add a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to become tender, about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and leeks and cook until the leeks are slightly wilted, about 3 minutes. Add in the garlic along with another generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until the garlic begins to smell fragrant, about 45 seconds. Toss in the diced apples and winter squash. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato juice, chicken or vegetable stock, and the package of quinoa and brown rice. Bring mixture to a boil before lowering to a simmer, covering, and cooking until the grains are cooked and the squash and apples are fork tender, about 50 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes.
If you the soup is becoming too thick, add in an even ratio of tomato juice and chicken broth, adjusting your seasoning with salt and pepper accordingly. When the soup is done, stir in the minced sage, dried Italian seasonings, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese. Ladle into bowls and top with fresh sage or parsley and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
Huge thanks to Hodgson Mill for sponsoring this recipe. Be sure to share your baking creations with the hashtag #TKbakes. And as always, all opinions, ramblings, stories, and recipe/adaptations are my own.