real life test kitchen: slow cooker curried butternut squash soup

I think I have set a new record, pulling down the slow cooker in October! Usually I realize mid November that one of my favorite kitchen tools is going unused. I owe this recent inspiration to a new cookbook my husband gave me (not without ulterior motives, I suspect), 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker. We had a butternut squash begging to be eaten, so I immediately decided to try the Curried Butternut Squash Soup Recipe. It was insanely easy to make, though I don’t have an immersion blender, which would have made everything easier. I found the recipe as it was in the book a little watery and bland. I added a dash of cider vinegar and extra curry powder to give it some kick. Here’s my take on the recipe:

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

What You Need
2 tablespoons of butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cups of water (original recipe called for five) — I may also try vegetable stock
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 to 3 tsp of curry powder or garam masala — depending on how you like your spice
1 tbl of cider vinegar
1 tsp chile powder
1 cup of coconut milk
a handful of chopped cilantro
1/2 cup of whole Greek yogurt
1/2 cup of roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)


1. Melt butter in a large pan and saute the onion over medium heat for about ten minutes.
2. Transfer to a 7-quart slow cooker and add squash. Cover and cook on LOW for about 2 hours until squash is tender.
3. Add water or broth, vinegar, spices, and cook on low for 2 to 4 more hours.
4. Puree the contents with a handheld immersion blender (or transfer and blend in batches in your upright blender, which I did, then return it to slow cooker.) Add coconut milk, and a generous amount of salt. Taste. Add more spices and cook a little longer if it needs.
5. Serve with cilantro, yogurt and pumpkin seeds — and a naan bread!

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post off: what’s your favorite food writing book?

I just finished Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour in which he travels the world in seplace of the perfect meal. I loved it. While Chef Tony can be sort of abrasively arrogant on “No Reservations,” in his writing, his passion is infectious and his arrogance dulled to a swaggering, appealing bad boy disposition. Every chapter was a new adventure (Vietnam, Russia, France, Japan) and (almost) every meal described in all it’s mouthwatering glory. It was a great read. More importantly though, A Cook’s Tour also introduced me to a literary genre I hadn’t ever read before: food writing. Now that’s I’ve delved into the genre, I’m hungry for more (sorry, couldn’t resist). So how about it, Shelterrific bookworms: what’s your favorite food writing book?

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real life test kitchen: spiced parsnip cupcakes

I spotted this recipe the other day in Everyday Food and had to try it. Parsnips are basically like carrots, but their flavor is more subtle and not as sweet. This goodie calls for a generous amount of cardamon, which is a favorite spice of mine. (See this amazing pumpkin muffin recipe for another October treat.) Not to mention, how else was I ever going to get my kid to eat a parsnip? They were pretty simple to make — no electric mixer needed! Though I recommend grating the parsnip with a food processor if you have one. The required elbow grease in that step was a bit unexpected. I also halved the frosting ingredients and found it was more than enough.

Here’s my take on the Everyday Food Recipe.

What You Need
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 peeled and grated parsnip (from 1 large peeled parsnip)
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.

2. Whisk together flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. In separate bowl, whisk together brown sugar, eggs, oil, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and parsnip. Stir in flour mixture.

3. Divide batter among cups — fill about 1/3 of the way. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 15 to 18 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

4. Beat cream cheese, butter, and confectioners’ sugar in a bowl until combined (use an electric mixer if you have one). Spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes. (Note: I store the cupcakes at room temperature, unfrosted, and keep the frosting handy in the fridge. I spread it on as we eat them!)

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30 days of halloween: john derian e-vitations on paperless post

If you’re just getting around to planning a party on Halloween, don’t fret. You can send one of these gorgeous e-vitations by John Derian on Paperless Post. With a beautiful turn-of-the-century vibe, they feature antique inspired drawings of skeletons, owls, bats, vultures, ravens and other creatures that look like they stepped right out of a Poe short story. Because these are so lush — complete with envelope, themed liner and personalized invitation — they are not free. At about .50 cents an invite, they are worth it to make an impact. Plus, Paperless Post makes it easy to keep track of who’s coming and who’s not. The only pressure is to create a party that’s spooky cool as your invite!

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real life test kitchen: chicken pot pie pasta

Every now and then you stumble upon a recipe and think, “Where have you been my whole life?” That’s how I felt after making Chicken Pot Pie Pasta from the October issue of Everyday Food. Now that there’s a fall chill in the air, the hankering for chicken pot pies is growing. But how often do you have dough in the freezer or the time to make it from scratch? This simple recipe replaces the dough with cooked pasta. Everything is done on the stove top it takes about 30 minutes. Here’s my take on the dish. The result was a big crowd-pleasing yum. The leftovers were even more divine.

Chicken Pot Pie Pasta
What You Need:
3/4 pound of penne or some other pasta
2 large handfuls of green beans, cut into inch-long pieces (I used frozen which were fine.)
3 tbls of butter
1 small (or half a large) yellow onion, chopped
1 o 2 stalks of celery, depending on how much you like, chopped
2 or 3 carrots, diced
1/4 cup of flour
2 cups of organic chicken broth
2 cups of diced chicken (Note: I cooked up some boneless chicken breasts in a pan with butter first.)

1. Make the pasta. When there is 3 minutes left to cook, add in green beans.
2. Meanwhile, heat up the butter in large saucepan until sizzling. Add onion, celery and carrots and cook until transluscent (about 4 minutes). Sprinkle flour on top, stirring constantly until well incorporated. Slowly add in the broth — don’t stop stirring! You’re basically making a roux. Once well blended, reduce heat and simmer. You might need to add more broth if it gets too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add drained pasta and beans to the chicken and vegetable sauce. Stir well and serve!

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