Soups and Seeds Part 2: Acorn Squash

Recently, I have been watching a lot of episodes of Jamie at Home in addition to cooking a few new recipes from my newest cook book Jamie’s America. Who is Jamie – his full name is Jamie Oliver and he is England’s version of both Emeril and the Pampered Chef. I like his style and approach of resourceful, rustic, simple, and bold cooking. I also love that he uses his influence to reach out into the community to help teens while embracing and celebrating food cultures around the globe. That’s the end of the tribute at this point. And, all to say, I’ve enjoyed his influence on my cooking.

At the Lakeshore Drive Charity Dinner, I made my super delicious butternut squash soup. This past week I replaced the butternut with acorn squash and the leeks with a small onion and added some indian spice, to make what is now my favorite squash soup. In addition, I carried those flavors through to roast the squash seeds. And, I have to say that the satisfaction of using almost the entire squash – along with the beautiful tastes – was really something that I enjoyed.

A side bonus is that these recipes are both vegan recipes. How is that possible? The three big surprises are a roasted sweet potato, coconut milk, and garam masala. Check out the recipe below and send me any questions or comments.

Acorn and Sweet Potato Soup (Vegan)

Soup Ingredients:

2-3 lbs of acorn squash, seeds rinsed and reserved to the side

1 large sweet potato

2/3 cup of coconut milk

2-3 tablespoons of EVOO

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon garam masala

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

3 1/2 cups of vegetable broth

1-1 1/2 cups of water

salt & pepper


1. Preheat over to 400 degrees

2. Slice squash and pealed sweet potato in half, drizzle with EVOO, and season with salt and pepper and place cut-side down on lined baking sheet

3. Roast for 30-45 minutes, until both are very soft

4. Cool until you can handle the squash, remove and discard skin.

5. Meanwhile, add remaining oil and onions to dutch oven over low heat. Gently saute onions until translucent.

6. Add masala and ginger to onions and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes

7. Add squash, potato, broth, salt, and pepper and simmer for 10-15 minutes

8. Blend in batches or with immersion blender until smooth, add water to achieve desired consistency.

Serve and enjoy!

Spiced and Roasted Squash Seeds

Seed Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees

2. Mix 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil with a teaspoon of salt, pinch of curry powder (sweet or hot is your preference), and pinch of garam masala until all are evenly coated.

3. Spread on lined baking sheet in one layer and roast for 15-25 minutes, stirring half way through.

Cool and eat. These are awesome!



Soups and Seeds Part 1: Hearty Chicken and Winter Veg

When I make this soup my home smells warm and inviting. The broth is almost sweet from the carrots and keeps my family clamoring for more. In the winter I make this at least once a month because it makes not only one of the best dinners but because it wraps up easily for fantastic lunches. If that weren’t enough, the stock can be made ahead of time and frozen for up 3 months. This recipe is also fun and forgiving when it comes to adjusting for available ingredients. For example, at Thanksgiving, I replaced the chicken for turkey leftovers and made some awesome turkey soup. Beyond that, you can substitute the southern holy trinity for the mirepoix to create a spicy soup. You can change the noodles and veg, whatever you want. I love this recipe and hope you really find success in whatever variation of it you imagine.


Hearty Chicken Soup with Winter Veg



tablespoon vegetable oil

pound ground chicken

small onion, chopped medium (about 1 cup)

medium carrot, chopped medium (about 1/2 cup)

medium celery rib, chopped medium

2 -3 ribs of swiss (or rainbow) chard, chopped medium

quart water

quarts low-sodium chicken broth

bay leaves

teaspoons table salt

1 small fryer (chicken), broken down


3 large carrots, peeled, cut roughly on bias

2 – 3 Ribs of swiss (or rainbow) chard, chopped medium

4 – 6
Swiss chard leaves, ribs removed, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)

4 whole cloves of garlic

2 cups of tortellini noodles (cooked separately according to directions)

How to bring it all together

For the stock:

1. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add ground chicken, onion, carrot, chard, and celery. Cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is no longer pink, 5 to 10 minutes (do not brown chicken).

2. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add water, broth, bay leaves, salt, and chicken breasts; cover and cook for 30 minutes. Remove lid, increase heat to high, and bring to boil. (If liquid is already boiling when lid is removed, remove chicken pieces immediately and continue with recipe.) Transfer chicken pieces to large plate and set aside. Continue to cook stock for 20 minutes, adjusting heat to maintain gentle boil. Strain stock through fine-mesh strainer into large pot or container, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Allow liquid to settle about 5 minutes and skim off 90 percent of the fat.

For the soup:

3. Remove skin and bones from reserved cooked chicken and discard. Shred meat with fingers or 2 forks. Separate dark meat and white meat.

4. Return stock to Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add carrots, chard, garlic, and shredded dark meat of chicken, cook 10 to 15 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain gentle boil. Add chard leaves and continue to cook until all vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes longer.

5. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve:

Add desired amount of tortellini noodles to each person’s bowl. Ladle soup over noodles.

Snow Day Noodles

Snow Day Noodles

We have had an unruly winter this year. The hardest part right now is that we still have plenty more ahead of us. So, I want to share a recipe that I created for my family this winter that chases the cold away and is great both the night I make it and for lunches the next day or so. As always, credit where credit is due, this recipe was inspired by Jamie Oliver’s book Jamie’s America. His recipe is called Fiery Dan Dan Noodles and is much spicier than the one I make for our house.

Here’s a little motivation to try a new recipe that takes very little time to make and can be enjoyed for days to follow. This morning I read a FB post form a friend of mine that said it took her over an hour and a half to drive two miles to the El platform where she transfers to take the train into the loop for work today. What’s worse is that the trend this winter has been for it to snow incredibly and then the temperature snaps to extra frigid for the following couple of days. And, I do mean that type of cold that gets you straight to your bones and kinda makes you ache a little.

Soup has been my family’s go to solution for this weather. And new among the recipes is this hot, brothy, noodle dish with beef protein and tons of cool and nutritious green vegetables.


2 chicken bouillon cubes

1/2 lb of ground beef

2 tablespoons of honey

10 oz of chinese wheat noodles (substitute gluten free noodle if you want/need)

1 head of napa cabbage

4 baby bok choy

1/2 dozen stalks of chinese broccoli

8 cloves minced garlic

3 tablespoons of dark low sodium soy sauce

3 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 tablespoon of chili oil

2 scallions – whites minced, greens roughly sliced

1 lime quartered


1) Boil bouillon cubes in four cups of water

2) In skillet over medium-high heat, add beef and cook through

3) Drain excess fat from skillet and stir in honey for 30 seconds. Set skillet aside and off of heat

4) Slice cabbage, broccoli stalks and quarter bok choy (removing middle stem)

5) Rinse and spin green vegetables

6) Stir noodles into broth and cook according to directions

7) In last minute of cooking stir into broth the vegetables, garlic, oils, soy sauce, and scallion whites

8) Serve broth and noodles into serving bowls, sprinkle with crispy beef and scallion greens, giving each diner a wedge of lime to squeeze into their soup.

Package and reheat for lunch:

1) Pack noodle mixture separate from beef, scallions, and lime.

2) Add 1-5 tablespoons of water to noodles, heat in microwave for about 90 seconds, stir in lime juice, beef and scallion greens. Enjoy!

Please remember that I am happy to answer any questions you may have when trying these recipes. So, just drop me a note through my contact page and I’ll guide you through with greater detail and attention.

Stay warm, Enjoy!

Beef Tenderloin for a Family Visit

Let me begin with a little of my own philosophy. If you write a food blog about a mountain of work you and your wife did to put on a fabulous dinner for charity, you can’t really order in chinese food when your parents drive a couple hundred miles to visit you for the weekend. Nor did I want to do that.

So this weekend, we did two special meals with my parents – pancake breakfast and beef dinner. For dinner the table was set for six because my sister and her date joined in the fun. The menu was fairly straight forward:

Pepper-crusted beef tenderloin with wild mushroom risotto and a green salad topped with pears, nuts, and honey goat cheese. Following we had night caps and make your own ice cream sundays.

Multiple steps ready the beef for the oven and then the plate – the path to divine taste follows:

Ingredients: Beef tenderloin, black peppercorns, salt, sugar, orange zest, nutmeg, baking soda, vegetable oil


1) Remove meat from refrigerator and truss for cooking at least one hour ahead of cooking.

2) In a saucepan over low-medium heat boil peppercorns in just enough oil to cover for ten to fifteen minutes. This process mellows the peppercorns, so the longer you go the more mild they become. Be sure to adjust the heat to prevent the peppercorns from burning. Drain and discard oil.

3) Once peppercorns are cooled to room temperature, combine in grinder with nutmeg and orange zest. Grind into fine powder.

4) Mix salt, sugar, and baking soda in small bowl.

5) Adjust oven rack to center and preheat to 300 degrees F

6) Rub meat on all sides with salt mixture

7) Rub meat on all sides with pepper mixture and place on roasting pan

Raw Crusted Tenderloin


8) Pierce meat with thermometer in thickest section of beef and place in oven

9) For medium-rare, remove meat once it has reached 120 degrees F

10) Heat vegetable oil to large skillet over medium-high to high heat

11) Sear beef in the skillet on all sides – approximately one to two minutes per side

12) Allow beef to rest on a cutting board, tented under foil, for ten to fifteen minutes

Tented Tenderloin


13) Carve the beef into desired portions.

Pepper-crusted Beef Tenderloin


Enjoy immensely as we all did with either a pinot noir to compliment the beef or a sweeter red wine to balance the heat of the pepper crust.