Butternut Squash Soup

butternut squash soup

butternut squash soup

Someone once said that a meal at my home is like going to a spiritual spa; with God’s help, I nourish both body and soul.

My creative sister concocted this great soup and gave the recipe to me years ago.  It has frequently graced my table, where my guests experience much peace.

My vision for this blog is to sustain people with wholesome food through the written word; thus, they will build strong bodies.  However, I am fully aware that a vibrant physique isn’t enough to insure complete health-that of body, mind, emotions, relationships, and finances.

How clear it is: we miss the totality of this by lack of knowledge!  My desire is that vital truth, which sets people free, will be revealed here gradually, primarily through the intriguing discipline of preparing food.

My lavish meals in my home feed many, both physically and spiritually; my blog contacts a great number more.  My personal prayers, however, expand to Uganda, England, Germany, Peru, Kenya, India-to mention a few of the nations that constitute the cry of my heart.

Chief among my steadfast petitions is that my writings/recipes, which go around the entire globe, will eradicate our health deficiencies-first those in our bodies and then in every other area of our lives.  God bless our journey together in this!

As an aside, my favorite way to entertain is by having only one or two guests, for the conversation is most intimate then.  I always keep individual containers of soup-holding several servings-in my freezer; thus, delicious soup is easy to serve at my small dinner parties.

May I suggest you buy a three-and-a-half-pound squash?  Save one pound of it for next week’s recipe-sautéed squash with curried yogurt sauce.  Also if you have leftovers of the soup, freeze some for unexpected visitors.

pot of butternut squash soup

soup with soft squash before pureeing

Butternut Squash Soup  Yields: 8-10 servings.  Total preparation time: 1 1/2 hr/ active prep time: 30 min/ cooking time: 1 hr.

2 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best.)

1 extra lg or 2 med onions, chopped

2 1/2 lb butternut squash, unpeeled and cut in chunks  (I prefer organic; you may buy an extra pound to cover next week’s recipe.)

2 quarts broth, preferably bone broth  (See recipe for this power food at Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10.)

2 c water

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp dried ginger

1/3 tsp nutmeg  (Freshly ground nutmeg is best.)

1/4 tsp ground cloves

2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine, optional

1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1/4 tsp white pepper, or to taste

Better Than Bouillon, chicken flavor, to taste

  1. Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat.  Add a small piece of onion; when it sizzles, add the rest of the onions and sweat (cook until translucent).
  2. Meanwhile clean squash with a safe, inexpensive, effective vegetable spray (a mixture of 97% white distilled vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide): spray squash, let sit for 3 minutes, rinse extra well.
  3. Cut unpeeled squash in chunks.  Be sure to remove the seeds first.  Add to cooked onions.
  4. Pour broth and 2 c of water in pot. Add spices, fresh ginger, salt and pepper.
  5. Cover and bring to a boil, over med/high heat.  Reduce heat, uncover, and simmer for 40-50 minutes, or until squash is very soft (see above photo).  Check for flavor during cooking and adjust spices to taste.
  6. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender.  (This is also known as a blender-on-a-stick; available at Bed, Bath and Beyond at a moderate price.)
  7. Add water, if soup is too thick.  Stir in Better Than Bouillon, to taste, starting with a teaspoonful.
  8. Finally adjust salt and pepper.  Serve hot, freeze any leftovers.

Sweet Potato Pie

sweet potato pie

sweet potato pie

Sweet potato pie and Christmas go together.  “Ring those Christmas bells; light the Christmas tree!”  This familiar carol burst forth vitally for me first in 1994; then, I had just invited Jesus into my heart.  Incipient living joy impacted me with this song, in my initial Sunday service during that month of December.

For decades the Salvation Army has rung those Christmas bells every holiday season; they have invited us always to reach out to the less fortunate.

Last year a dear bell-ringer came into my life; George lite up the Fred Meyer’s grocery store, where I took my daily coffee.  During the holidays, this man reminisced about his mother’s sweet potato pie.  As he formed his words, my heart contrived an extraordinary surprise: I could develop a sweet potato pie for him.

Days later Christmas came alive for me much the same as in 1994: I delivered my newfound creation, this seasonal treat, to my cherished bell-ringer.

My heart leaped with joy, when George returned this year, for once more I got to give my sweet potato pie to him.  May you too shower your loved ones this holiday with this blessed recipe!

  1. dscf0070Sweet Potato Pie  Yields 1-10″ pie.  Total prep time: 3 1/3 hr/  active prep time: 1 hr/  baking time: 1 hr, day before; 1 1/3 hr, day of.

2 c baked, peeled sweet potatoes, packed down in cup  (You will need 1 1/2 lbs or 2 medium sweet potatoes-note that yams are a variety of sweet potatoes.)

3/4 c heavy whipping cream

3/4 c milk

1 c brown sugar, packed  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s; coconut sugar is also excellent.)

3/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

4 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp vanilla

3 extra lg eggs (May use 4 smaller eggs.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash sweet potatoes, dry, and pierce with a fork.  Wrap potatoes in foil and place on a cookie sheet.  Bake in oven until soft, for about 1 hour, depending on size of potatoes.  Cool.  MAY BE DONE A DAY AHEAD.
  2. Note: if you don’t have a food processor, go to step 5 for doing this by hand.  If using a food processor, place peeled sweet potatoes in the processor.  Blend well.
  3. Add cream, milk, sugar, salt, spices, and vanilla; blend; stop and scrape down sides; blend again.
  4. Add eggs.  Blend very lightly again, just until eggs are mixed in.  Do not over-blend, or pie will have a chiffon-like substance.  Set aside.  Proceed to pie crust.
  5. If doing this by hand, mash peeled sweet potatoes well with a potato masher or large fork.  Follow steps 3 and 4, but blend with a hand mixer. Set aside when filling is complete.  Proceed to pie crust.

Pie Crust  Yields: 2 simple, foolproof pie crusts.  (Note: this recipe requires 3/5’s of this dough; the rest may be baked into cinnamon sugar strips.)

1 1/4 c unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic is high quality.)

1 c whole wheat pastry flour  (I grind 2/3 c organic soft winter wheat berries, to make 1 c of whole wheat pastry flour.)

1 tsp salt

2/3 c oil  (Grapeseed or canola oil is best.)

1/3 c plus 1 tbsp boiling water

Wax paper  (This makes for a mess-free rolling out of the pie crust.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. With a fork, blend flours and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. Mix in oil and boiling water until all flour is incorporated.
  4. Form into two balls and cover in plastic wrap.  (One ball should be 3/5’s of the dough; the other smaller ball can be made into cinnamon strips and baked along with the pie.)  Place balls on top of hot oven to keep warm.
  5. Using a rolling-pin, roll out larger ball, between 2-18″ pieces of wax paper. Make a big, slightly oblong circle-12 1/2″ x 15″-with the dough (see above photo).  Peel off top piece of wax paper.  Turn upside down and gently place pie crust over a 10-inch pie plate, with the wax paper side up.  Very carefully peel the wax paper off.  With fingers, seal any cracks in crust and form a rim around the edge of plate with the dough; patch lean areas of the crust with excess from other areas.
  6. Pour the sweet potato puree in the pie crust.  Bake for 1 1/3 hr, or until a knife comes out clean, when inserted in center.
  7. This is good!

Curried Chicken/Cheese Ball

curry/chicken/cheese ball

curried chicken/cheese ball

This incredible hors d’ouvres dates back to the early 1980’s.  My mother’s best friend, in our small Rocky Mountain village, became my treasured ally. She and her husband moved to East Glacier Park, when he retired as a screenplay writer. Talbot Jennings was so famous that a prominent New York City television station featured his movies, such as The King and I, for a whole week, before he died.

This illustrious couple traveled the world during the production of these films; thus, Betsy schooled me in her prodigious cosmopolitan ways.  I thoroughly enjoyed sitting under her tutelage, as she prepared me for the lions at Trafalgar Square and exceeding more, prior to my moving to London.  I believe she was even more excited than I, about my valiant relocation to Tokyo half a decade later.

The voluminous New York Times brought the vast outside world to Betsy every weekend.  She was forever clipping articles to prepare me for my numerous sojourns.

With this same spirit, starting in 1982, she helped me to grow as a historical caterer. My creative mentor was always sending me gifts, which she ordered from the New York Times.  Ingenious gadgets were among a wide array of superlative food items. Many of these imaginative tools still grace my kitchen today.

While I was doing my early work in Billings, Montana, I journeyed to my hometown each year, where I catered multiple theme dinners per visit. The eight-hour drive across the wide expanse of the Big Sky Country thrilled my tender soul. How I delighted in approaching the backdrop of my beloved mountains, as I gazed across those colossal open prairies.

Once there, I spent many hours drinking in wisdom at Betsy’s feet.  During one of these relished trips, she offered this  delectable cheese ball to me.  I was enamored with it then and still am today.  Then it was a frequent hors d’oeuvre at my gala catered events;  today it is still my constant contribution to every holiday meal, at which I am a guest.

May you make this blessed appetizer a family tradition as well!

Curried Chicken/Cheese Ball  Yields: 2 1/2 c.  Total prep time: 3/4 hr/ active prep time: 30 min/ inactive prep time: 15 min.  Note: you may make this a day ahead.

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1 c slivered almonds

1/2 c unsweetened coconut, finely grated  (Available in bulk, at our local Winco and other stores.)

2 tbsp mayonnaise  (Best Foods excels all other mayonnaise.)

2-3 tbsp Major Grey’s Mango Chutney  (3 spoonfuls gives full-bodied sweetness.)

1 tbsp curry powder, or to taste

1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

3-4 frozen tenderloins  (Natural chicken is best; Trader Joe’s works well for quality and cost.)

1-9 oz box Original Wheat Thins

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roast almond slivers for 10 minutes.  Remove and cool on a plate.
  2. If you are using frozen tenderloins, thaw in warm water.  Cook chicken in salted boiling water.  When center is white, after inserting a knife, remove chicken from water and cool in refrigerator on a plate.  Do not overcook to avoid toughness.
  3. Mix all the above ingredients except the chicken and almonds.  Note: it works best to insert a regular teaspoon in the narrow jar of Major Grey’s Mango Chutney, when measuring it.  Be sure to use well-rounded teaspoons, as each approximates a tablespoon, for which the recipe calls.
  4. Chop roasted almonds with a sharp knife; add to cream cheese.
  5. Leave this cream cheese mixture out at room temperature, while waiting for the chicken to cool.  When meat is cool, cut it into small pieces; finally, mix chicken into cream cheese very gently, as not to shred it.
  6. Criss-cross two large pieces of plastic wrap; place chicken ball in the center of wrap.  Surround ball with this plastic covering and refrigerate on a small plate.
  7. Soften ball at room temperature before serving, to facilitate the spreading.
  8. Surround with crackers on a decorative serving plate.  This is a winner!

Thai Coconut/Lime Flounder

Salad with leftover Thai flounder

salad with leftover chilled Thai flounder

This delicious white fish dish resulted from a long-awaited-for marriage, which took place in my church in October.  A feast at my bountiful table was part of my wedding present to our venerated couple.

Our bride Dina was particularly interested in learning how to cook, with ease, for her new groom.  My bright idea was to begin my dinner gift in the kitchen with teaching her how to make the meal.  I prepared all the steps, just like you might see on a cooking show: the ingredients were set out in small individual dishes, along with the corresponding pans and utensils. All was in place for the lesson to flow naturally.

My priceless inheritance from my parents was a gene that “knows” food. Therefore I intuitively conceived this delicious dish, which was specifically geared for her husband’s dietary needs.  An exquisite, ultra simple recipe resulted.

Surprise and hesitancy occurred upon my friends’ arrival, as I informed Dina that she was going to make dinner, under my close direction.  She, being true to form, rolled up her sleeves with courage.  Her nervousness soon dissipated, for the facility of my simple instructions comforted her.  Joy unspeakable resulted: a chef was born! I have observed, as an aside, that this woman approaches all of life’s challenges with this same spirit.

Are you timid about stepping into the unknown, either in or out of the kitchen? May you receive encouragement to advance in faith; start by trying my recipes. They look lengthy at times, but are effortless!  The cause for this seeming protractedness is my inclusion of practical details, which make food preparation easy and enjoyable.  You’ll sense that you are in  cooking school, when you use my receipts, as I teach at every point.  Rest assured-I will educate you for the joy of cooking.

My favorite way to serve this smooth flounder, with its slight bite, is over a good pasta (however I used rice for my newly weds); either will bless the taste buds. Also, cold leftovers of this fish top off a salad superbly.

This feast pleased Dina and Dale; and me as well!

Thai coconut lime flounder dinner

Thai coconut/lime flounder dinner

Thai Coconut/Lime Flounder  Yields: 4 servings.  Total prep time: 40 minutes.

Note: flounders closely relate to soles; thus, you may substitute any sole here (also see Parmesan Dover Sole, 2017/03/27).

1 tsp coconut oil  (Other oils will do, but coconut is best for flavor and quality here.)

1 med yellow onion, halved at the core, and cut in even 1/8 inch slices

1 lime, juiced

7 oz Extra Thick Coconut Cream, or half of a 14 oz can  (This is available at Trader Joe’s.)

3/4 tsp dried, crushed red pepper  (Save spice jars and refill yearly with fresh, inexpensive “bulk’ spices.)

1/4 tsp salt

4 fillets of flounder, approximately 1 pound  (Wild-caught is best; may substitute a pound of sole, which is a close relative to flounder.)

Steamed rice or pasta, regular or gluten-free

  1. beginning stages of caramelization

    Start cooking rice, according to directions on package.  If using pasta, begin boiling water in a big pot; to which you add 2 tsp salt and 2 tbsp oil-any kind of oil will do.

  2. Place 4 individual dinner plates in oven; set the temperature on warm.
  3. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over med/low heat; stir in onions well; caramelize, by stirring every several minutes until they start to turn color (see photo); then, stir every minute until dark brown (see photo below); watch carefully while going to next steps.  (Do not crowd pan with onions, or they will sweat, taking much longer to cook.)
  4. Meanwhile roll lime on counter; press down hard with your hand, until the meat of the fruit is broken down and softened; juice lime; set aside.
  5. Place whole can of coconut oil in a small storage container; be sure first to gently stir milk and cream together thoroughly in can (this prevents a mess when emptying the can).
  6. Add half of the coconut cream (7 oz), lime, red pepper, and salt to caramelized onions.  Stir well and slowly bring to a soft boil over medium heat.  If preparing for guests, you may choose at this point, to set aside coconut/onion mixture and heat it 15 minutes before serving.  If you are waiting, be sure to have the plates warm, rice cooked, or water boiling when you start to cook the flounder.  (Note: you can freeze leftover coconut cream, or use within a week.)
  7. caramelized onions approaching finish

    Start cooking pasta in boiling water about 10 minutes before dinner time. Boil until it is al dente, about 7 minutes, do not over cook. Drain and place on heated dinner plates when done.

  8. Meanwhile add two fillets of flounder (more if using smaller sole) to hot coconut cream/onion mixture, which has been heated over medium temperature.  Poach briefly on each side, only until color in center is opaque.  Do not overcook.  Remove to heated dinner plates, on which you have placed pasta or rice.  Repeat this step with the remaining fillets.  Cover with sauce.
  9. Serve it forth!