Roasted Butternut Squash and Parsnip Soup

I have about 8 butternut squash from my little garden sitting on my counter.  I only planted 2 seeds of butternut squash.  I guess it payed off.  I wonder if you can freeze it.  Guess I'll find out.  Time to make soup.
This is one of my kiddos favorite soups.  They were so excited when they found out I was making it.  It looks like a lot of ingredients (okay, it is) but don't be afraid.  I saw pre-cut-up butternut squash at Costco and at the grocery store, so buy that if you don't want to peel and cut up your very own squash.  It is a bit satisfying to chop away, however.  I like to get out the big knives.
Give the seeds to your chickens, they love them.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Parsnip Soup
1 good size butternut squash (1 1/2 pounds), peeled and rough chopped
1 pound parsnips, peeled and rough chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 pound Italian mild sausage, removed from the casing OR diced ham (optional)
2 cups onion, small diced (about 1 large)
1 cup celery, small diced (about 2 large stalks)
1 cup leeks, small diced (about 1 bunch)
1 shallot, small diced
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2-3 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup maple syrup (the real stuff) OR honey
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage leaves
1teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Place the chopped squash and parsnips in a large bowl.  Drizzle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil and place the squash and parsnips on top of the sheet pan.
Roast fro 30 minutes, or until the squash is lightly caramelized and tender.
In the meantime, in a large pot, add the remaining 1 Tablespoon oil and brown the sausage.  Cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes.
Add the onions, celery, and leeks in the pan and sweat, stirring often for about 5 minutes.  Add the shallot and garlic and cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly.
Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and add the chicken or vegetable broth to the pan.
Place the squash mixture in the pan with the maple syrup, sage and thyme.
Bring the pan to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are all tender.
Use an immersion blender to puree the soup to a smooth consistency, or you can puree the soup in batches using a blender.  Seriously, haven't you bought an immersion blender yet?
Add the cream and taste the soup.  Add salt and pepper to taste (I usually add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a couple of grinds of pepper.)
Keep it warm until you serve it.


Smothered Pork Chops

Smothered anything is a truly southern meal.  I love it.  This keeps the pork moist.  The gravy is full of veggies and very flavorful.  We had the pork with colcannon and biscuits.  A very good meal.
Smothered Pork Chops
6 pork chops, bone in
1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
1/3 cup flour + 2 Tablespoons
2 Tablespoons oil (I use canola or olive oil)
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
1 can (14 ounce) chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
Mix the 1/3 cup flour and salt and pepper in a shallow pan (like a pie pan.)
Dredge the chops in the flour mixture.
Heat the oil in a large skillet.
Add the pork chops and brown, turning once.  Transfer to a plate.
In the same skillet, saute the onion, celery, mushrooms and pepper.  Cook until softened and golden brown.
Sprinkle the 2 Tablespoons of flour over the vegetables and cook for another minute.
Pour in the chicken broth and stir, scraping the brown bits off of the bottom of the pan. Cook until thickened.

Add the sour cream and stir until blended.
Add the reserved pork chops to the gravy.  Cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until the chops are cooked.

Colcannon (super easy, kinda cheating way)

When the kiddos were young we would pick a country a month.  Twice during the month we would have food from that country.  The kiddos would have to find the country on the world map, find the country's flag and a few facts about the country.  Our friends would love to come over during our international evenings.  It was fun.  The kiddos learned and we all discovered favorite foods that we would have never tried otherwise.
This is one of those favorite foods.
I have the original recipe, which is pretty involved.  If any wants that one, just leave a comment and I will post it, but this one is pretty convenient (using pre-prepared food - it felt like cheating) and still tastes really good.
Colcannon is a potato and cabbage (or kale) mix with bacon or ham.  It is very good and traditional around Halloween. We had it tonight with the smothered pork chops and drop biscuits.  Lovely.
2 bags of steam and mash frozen potatoes OR 3 pounds potatoes, diced and peeled (if you peel potatoes - I don't)
1 bag tricolored cole slaw mix OR chopped kale
1 bunch green onions
6-10 slices of precooked bacon, rough chop OR diced ham
1 stick of butter
1 1/4 cup milk or half and half
salt and pepper if you are using fresh potatoes
If you are using fresh potatoes, boil in salted water for 12 minutes.  Add the cabbage to the water during the last 5 minutes.  Drain and put in a large bowl.
If you are using frozen potatoes, cook according to the package directions.  Cook the cabbage in the microwave on high for 4-5 minutes.  Put potatoes and cabbage in a large bowl.
To the potato mixture, add the remaining ingredients (you can heat the butter and milk if you want) and mash with a potato masher.  Serve hot.  You can make this in advance and reheat it in the oven or microwave.


Drop Biscuits

I wanted biscuits to go with dinner tonight. I was running late, however, and wasn't sure that I had time.  I decided to make quick drop biscuits.  They turned out so good!  They were buttery and crispy on the outside, moist and light on the inside.  I will definitely do these again.  Just have to write down what I did so I don't forget.  These made 22 biscuits, so you could make half if you need.  I bet they would freeze well - I don't know for sure because they never last that long with my crew.
Drop Biscuits
4 cups flour
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
10 Tablespoons butter, chilled and cut in cubes
2 1/2 cups buttermilk OR milk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

Using 2 knives or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter.
Stir in the buttermilk and mix until the dough comes together.
Drop the dough onto a baking sheet (I cover it with parchment paper).  I use a large cookie scoop.  Leave space between each biscuit for them to expand.
Bake for 12 - 15 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown.


Molasses Cookies

Molasses cookies are my all-time favorite cookie.  They are an old fashioned kind of cookie, almost anything with molasses in it is old fashioned.  My mom used to make them for me when I was young.
My mom passed away this year on Memorial Day (she would have said that the day was appropriate) and I miss her very much.  She was feisty, sometimes bossy, kind and lived to serve others. 
She would make my brother his favorite, pecan pie without the pecans, or would make my sister her favorite apricot filled sugar cookies.  This was mine.
So I made them.
Thanks Mom.
Molasses Cookies
3/4 cup shortening (like Crisco)
1 cup sugar, plus more for rolling the cookies
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and get out an ungreased cookie sheet (I line them with parchment paper - they cook more evenly.)
Cream the shortening and sugar.  To this, add the molasses and egg.  Mix until smooth.
To the sugar mixture, add the baking soda, salt, flour, cinnamon and ginger.
Mix.  This will be a stiff dough.
Form the dough into balls - I use a cookie scoop - and roll in sugar. 
Place on a cookie sheet.  Don't crowd the little balls, they will spread while they bake.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Don't over bake them.


Apple Cake

Apples are in season!  It is my favorite time of the year.  The leaves are just starting to change here in New England.  There is a nip in the air in the morning and the evening and the time in between is perfect. 
This was the sight that greeted me this morning at 7am, right outside my house.  This is the time that apple picking starts.
I have taken my kiddos apple picking since they could gnaw on a hunk of apple.  I love it.  I actually have 2 apple trees in my yard.  Yum.
This cake is truly from my grandma.  I don't know where she got it. I remember making it for her bridge club when I was in my 20's, along with cucumber sandwiches and other finger foods.  Ah, good times.  This is one of those cakes that is even better the next day.  Love it.
Apple Cake
4 cups of peeled, diced apples (about 5 medium apples), I like granny smith
2 cups sugar
2/3 cups vegetable or canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 11X9 baking pan OR a bundt pan.
In a large bowl, mix together the apples, sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs.  Mix well.  The apple are going to produce juice.  Trust me, don't change the order of ingredients. (been there, done that)
To the apple mixture, add the flour, soda, salt and cinnamon.  Mix until well blended.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 55 - 60 minutes.  Let cool.  Frost with cream cheese frosting (recipe follows.)
Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Gradually add sugar until incorporated.  Add vanilla and beat until fluffy.


Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Galumpkis)

Galumpkis is fun to say.  Try it.
Galumpkis.  Galumpkis. Galumpkis.
Made you smile.
Galumpkis means pigeons in Polish.  Pigeons have nothing to do with this meal.  That would be interesting, though.
Everyone (I have read) has their own version of cabbage rolls. Passed down for generations.  From their feisty nana.  Hm mm.
This is what I do for cabbage rolls.  It's not passed down from anyone.  However, I am getting older.  When I am a nana, I'll be sure to pass it down.  If we allow my teenagers to propagate, that is.  It might be a mistake for humanity.  It's been a long week.
These turned out pretty good.  A slightly sweet and sour tomato sauce with the beef and cabbage.  I served them with spaghetti squash, but they would be really good with buttered noodles, boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes.  Don't forget to add a dollop of sour cream on the side.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Galumpkis)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 (28 ounce) can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can tomato soup
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
Cabbage Rolls:
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (lean)
1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
1 Tablespoons tomato paste
Splash of red wine (optional)
1 package dried onion soup mix (like Lipton)
1 egg
1 cup cooked rice
1 large head of cabbage
Start with the sauce.
In a sauce pot, heat 2 TB. of oil and saute the onion for 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 more minute.  Add the vinegar and deglaze the pan.
Add the wine and boil for a minute or two.
Add the tomatoes, tomato soup and paste.  Stir and simmer while you prepare the cabbage rolls.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Remove the damaged outer leaves from the cabbage and set aside.  Cut out the core of the cabbage with a sharp knife.  Put the whole cabbage in the boiling water.
As the cabbage leaves soften, pull them off carefully and set aside. 
Do this to as much on the cabbage as you can.  You won't need the whole thing.
In a large bowl, mix the remaining ingredients.
Using your hands (oh come on, you can do it) mix it all up.
Take the reserved big outer leaves and lay them on the bottom of a casserole pan, letting the leaves go up the sides of the pan.  This insulation will prevent the cabbage rolls from burning on the bottom.
Using the good looking leaves, cut out the super thick middle vein.  Put about 1/2 cup of the meat filling in the center of the leaf.
Starting at what was the stem end, fold the sides in and roll up the cabbage to enclose the filling.
Place the cabbage rolls side by side in rows (I stacked, too), seam side down, in a casserole pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls.  Fold the hanging leaves over the top and place leftover leaves on the top to enclose the rolls and keep the moisture in.  Drizzle the top with about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes until the meat is cooked.