Foliage and Butternut Squash

#instasoup

I never truly appreciated New England Fall until I spent my first semester of college at High Point University in North Carolina. I expected the leaves to do their gussied up business of turning all orange and rougey, but they kind of just fell off the tree in a zero climax death. Now I see why people travel up north to stop—dangerously—on the side of the road and take snap shots of our calendar worthy foliage, which is still hauntingly beautiful every single year.

I like fall for many reasons. For one I can pull out my arsenal of cowl neck scarves that sit, unloved, in the closet during the humid months. I can eat a few more sweet treats because all the layers of clothing hide my stomach which had to be at attention for days at the beach. And I can also fill said tummy with a variety of soups. I love soups because they give you artistic leeway in the kitchen, they are generally cheap and easy to make, and slurps are inevitable. Who doesn’t love slurping? So, behold the first soup of the season! It’s a homemade butternut squash recipe from the Whole Foods website.

I’ve never really been a huge squash fan or foe—I don’t really eat it much except during Thanksgiving when it takes on an applesauce form—so I was hesitant. Much to my surprise, the soup turned out superb.

It has a wholesome simplicity to it. It’s not filled with a myriad of flavors, but it isn’t bland either. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top and you have yourself a warm, soothing bowl that can be a main dish or paired with half a sandwich or even chicken. Tip: if you have the self-control to hold off, make it during the evening and don’t eat it until the following afternoon. Just like you shouldn’t immediately cut into meat that’s hot out of the oven, soup also needs time to settle, which allows the flavors to mingle.

Whole Food’s Classic Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 carrot, diced [I used 2 carrots and omitted the celery; I detest celery]
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cups cubed butternut squash, fresh or frozen [I got more than 4 cups worth for $3.00]
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth [Since this soup doesn’t need lots of expensive ingredients, look for the best broth you can find!]
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Method:

Heat oil in a large soup pot. Add carrot, celery and onion. Cook until vegetables have begun to soften and onion turns translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in butternut squash, thyme, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until squash is fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Use an immersion blender [the best gadget you could possibly buy] to purée soup. Alternatively, let the soup cool slightly and carefully purée in batches in a traditional blender.

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn

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Slow Cookers: The Imaginary Chef in the Kitchen

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Apologies if this offends you, but for months slow cookers screamed mom status—much like the mighty casserole, which I refuse to make unless I have some Rugrats under foot. Slow cookers sang the (reasonable) defeated cries of the woman tired of carting her kids back and forth to extracurricular activities; the woman who was just trying to get something onto the table. A slow cooker just wasn’t for me. I was young, energetic, with time on my hands and a passion for frantic kitchen forays. And then I looked at my school schedule, and my upcoming work schedule (26 hours a week, baby), and realized perhaps the slow cooker, the original set it and forget it machine, needed to have a supporting role in the kitchen.

Prejudice aside, the wheels started turning. Why, I could throw everything into it during the morning, go to class, come back to check in, and go about my day. Six to eight hours later I would have a fragrant smelling home and enough food to last me throughout the week. My weekly soup obligation started to seem like less of a hassle, and, of course, the 21 year old in me saw the potential of still having a hearty dinner(s) during the weekend, despite a moderate hangover. Seeing as I have to pass through the kitchen to reach the bathroom, the hallowed resting spot for the all mighty Tylenol bottle, even angry at the world, mildly still inebriated me could toss a few things into the slow cooker and go back to bed. Hallelujah!

I was in no position to buy a slow cooker, so casually I called my mom, asked her about her life and nonchalantly asked if she, oh, had an unused slow cooker around. She did. And it’s probably older than me, because I have never seen her use it. Sturdy and made before the time of planned obsolescence, the old gal started up fine.

In keeping in line with frugal meals, I chose a spicy black bean soup. The ingredient list was simple: a pound of black beans soaked overnight, some spices, and good quality chicken broth made sweet kitchen love for six hours. Much like the rice and beans, the soup was humble looking, but surprisingly pleasant on the taste buds. While I don’t think anyone under the age of 30 should resort to making a tuna casserole (or any sort of casserole), I think all 20-soemthings can find a place in their heart—and kitchen—for this safe and efficient appliance.

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn

So Juicy I’m Making Couture Jealous

This baby is older than me!

After working at Goodwill for 15 months, I’ve come up with a  sound theory on donated items. If someone has donated an appliance that is very old (from the early 90’s or 80’s and back) one can assume two things.

1 The item at hand was really amazing, but the person/family decided to upgrade after 10-20 years to the newer version of the appliance.

2 The item at hand had been stowed away for years, and the person/family had decided to donate it  because it had been collecting dust for 10-20 years.

One should always be weary of more recent or seemingly brand spankin’ new appliances that have been donated. For example, several months ago I bought a Sharper Image juicer at said store. I was beyond miffed to find out how inefficient it was (I could practically drink the left over pulp that should have been dry!) Thus, I realized the excited person/family must have used it once after the 30 days they had bought it, been unable to return it, and had driven to the Goodwill in anger and donated it. My Kitchen Aid mixer from the 60’s has proven to be an absolute tank, so when my eyes settled upon the Tefal Juicer from 1989, my heart fluttered like a twitterpated song bird.

Note: The day I left early to buy the juicer was the day I was forced to block one of my neighbors in…oh the drama, but it was sooooo worth it.

I’ve been into green smoothies for more than a year. In fact, they were what catapulted me into a more sound and healthy diet. However, I’ve always been intrigued by juicers, as it’s nice to add something new to the mix. Unfortunately, you are way more likely to find affordable  blenders than you are affordable juicers. The cheapest, reputable one is Jack Lalanne’s at $100, and most others can cost around $200 and up. Sadly, $200 was something I was unable to magically pull out of thin air, so I jumped when I saw the juicer at GW for $12.99 (they rarely come in.)

Juicing is great because it allows you to liquefy vegetables for easy consumption. My blender is not super powerful, so when I make green smoothies I can really only incorporate greens like spinach, collard greens, and the occasional Swiss chard. There was a whole land of carrot, beet, celery, and apple juice that I was not privy to, sigh. Plus, when you make your own juice there aren’t any added sugars and chemicals that are found in store bought juices. Yup, you heard me, this is juice you can actually drink on a regular basis!

When you blend or juice fruits and vegetables, the enzymes break down and your body has a far easier job of digesting them. With smoothies (which I will be writing a post on), since you don’t strain anything you are able to maintain the fiber. With juicing, the fiber is removed in the form of pulp and you are left with what I like to call: the essence. I don’t think one is significantly better than the other, though, I will admit that smoothie-ing is less of a process than juicing—there are so many parts of a juicer to clean! However, I think you do miss out if you are only able to do one. So, if your finances allow you, buy both!

So far I’ve made three awesome juices with my juicer (which has yet to be named!) I made a lot of stinker green smoothies at the beginning, so perhaps this learning curve is a lot better.

Recipe #1- I decided to try out a really simple juice so I could acclimate my taste-y buds

4 Oranges

2 Carrots

Teeeeny, weeeeny piece of ginger

I bought some Valencia juicing oranges at my local co-op for 30 cents a piece! Carrots are great because they do yield a large amount of juice and oranges are a sweet punch of vitamin c. The ginger was for some pizzazz and to make me feel a little hard-core.

Recipe #2- Getting a little green!

3 Oranges

3 Carrots

2 Kale Leaves + Tiny bit of spinach

I was really excited to use kale, because it doesn’t blend so well in my little Proctor Silex Blender. I first put in the carrots, then the kale, and finally the oranges. If you decide to use greens make sure you have something to add afterward to push through any leftover pieces and juice that might be sitting in the spout! I’ve noticed that when adding greens you can definitely taste them initially, but if you have something sweet in the drink (like the oranges) that is the taste you’ll be left with.

Recipe #3- Just Beet It

2 Beets

3 Carrots

2 Oranges

Chris and I don’t get many things at the co-op (wayyyy outside our budget for a full trip), but when I saw a bunch of 4 beets for $2.99 I had to get them.  This definitely wasn’t as sweet as the other juices, but still palatable. Because of that, I wasn’t able to slurp it down as fast as the other recipes and the rest is in my fridge for tomorrow morning. Here are some ones to tips, recipes, and nutritional facts on this voluptuous purple root veggie.

When you are showering, making breakfast, or have a few spare minutes, listen to this video on juicing. You’ll pick up great tips on what fruits/vegetables will fill your cup up and what greens won’t leave you feeling like you bought a bunch for nothing.

Some things to remember with green juices:

If you aren’t used to eating fruits and vegetables tread lightly into the realm for the first week or two. Most of these recipes have topped off my 12 oz mason jars. That’s a lot of fruits and vegetables to be drinking in one sitting and can cause what is kindly called “runny tummy.”  Your body will soon adjust, trust me, but you might find yourself having to go to the bathroom if you sip it down with the same amount of ease as Tropicana Orange Juice.  Finally, freshly prepared juices start to lose nutrients quickly. It’s advisable to drink them immediately or within 24 hours. As the video above mentions, grapefruit and orange juice can last up to two days if properly stored.

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn

Be ready for a delicious hip opening sequence tomorrow!!!

Cast Your Vote

Jamie @ The Unseasoned Wok

As you know I fall rather easily in love with kitchen appliances. I like appliances that can do many things. My Cuisinart blending stick= whisk and food processor. I like appliances that can only do one thing, but do that one thing very well; how did I live before acquiring my zester? When it comes to my pans I like it simple. I’m not interested in these pans with Teflon coats, shine that will wear off the second you try to sizzle some bacon, or pretty flower doodles on the side. When it comes to pans I think in terms of simplicity and functionality. I think back to more simple times when people carted their belongings around in covered band wagons. I’m channeling Laura Ingalls Wilder and her incredibly attractive father.

I’m talking cast iron pans.

I’m not sure why I don’t see them hanging in more people’s kitchens. Perhaps it’s because they’re a tad heavy or because they are not ornate. What ever the reason, I’m hoping to convince you to go Team Iron after this posting.

Cast iron cookware has been around for hundreds of years. They are the original non-stick pan, and they retain a lot of heat making them excellent for frying. Plus, they’re super versatile and can be put in the oven.

Preparation

The first thing you need to do with your cast iron before you use it is season the pan. Seasoning the pan gives it that great non-stick quality (yes for cutting down on arduous scrubbing time). People use many methods to season a pan. Some people use high quality fat drippings they’ve saved over time. Other people like to use oils. When I had to season my pans I used good ol’ Crisco. Seasoning a pan is a great rainy day activity, as the pan needs to sit in the oven for a few hours. Do some homework, watch movies, or clean the apartment. This video shows the technique I used. It seemed the most basic, and I haven’t had any trouble with my pans yet. I honestly loved the seasoning process. I instantly felt much closer to the food I would be eating. Most people recommend to re-season your pan yearly.

 

Segregation is only cool when doing laundry and cooking with cast iron

Now that you’ve accomplished the hardest part of owning cast iron pan, you just have to make sure you maintain them by cooking smart. A great thing about cast iron is that the pans hold in the flavor of the foods you cook in them. Chris and I use one of my mom’s old pans exclusively for eggs and only eggs. Occasionally omelet innards—tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and cheese—will find their way in, but we are really strict about what goes in to maintain the flavor. Come over to our house if you want some good eggs.  We also have three more pans. One is for cooking vegetables and the occasional pancake since it’s wider than the egg pan. The other is for our beef and chicken (if we are making stir fry we’ll add veggies.) I’ve tied a string around the handle of the meat one so we can tell the difference. The third one is my baby: the grill pan. It’s excellent for burgers of the beef and Portobello variety and great for fish. It doesn’t get the most use, but it has never let me down.

 

Treat it gently

One super important thing you need to remember when using cast iron is you have to clean it properly. Do not use soap or metal scrapers to clean the pan. Instead invest in a good sponge and a bristle brush that will never see the white of suds. Save the soapy sponges for the rest of your dishes. If you use soap it will eat away at the seasoning and will make you food taste blah. If you have something sticky in the pan, try to scrape it off while it’s still warm with a wooden spoon. It’ll make later cleaning much easier. In some occasions, you can get away with not washing it. We rarely wash our egg pan. Usually we just wipe it out, which is a luxury for fried egg aficionados. Users beware: don’t let it sit anywhere too long with water in it if you’ve got an unusually sticky mess. You’ll leave a rust stain in the bottom of your sink or on your counter, which means two things to scrub!

Health benefits

Cooking with iron can also reap surprising benefits. This summer when I was going through my soon to be discovered gluten issues, I went to get my blood checked for anemia. The doctors said my iron levels were fine, which I was mildly surprised by since I wasn’t super great at eating beans or taking supplements. It turns out that cooking with iron leaves traces of it in your food. Normally trace residue isn’t desirable, but in this case it helps out. This is great for vegans, vegetarians, and women in general, as we need to consume a sizeable amount of daily iron because of menstruation. The only people who should be concerned are people with an excess iron condition called hemochromatosis.

I strongly encourage you to add a cast iron pan or two (or three, or four) to your kitchen repertoire. Your food will taste better, cleaning will be easier, your health might increase, and you’ll feel more rustic. Yee-haawww!

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn

Appliances: Oodles and oodles of fun!

Okay, I lied, one more quick post and then to bed.

So I’ve recently added a new appliance baby to my collection of kitchen goods. May I present, my “new” 1960 KitchenAid 4C Counter Top Mixer! Pfft, wait a minute, she is more cougar than baby!

This lady is a beast. Finding one with the bowl and whisk is pretty rare. This model was made back when Hobart designed the parts for KitchenAid (now it’s Whirlpool) so there is a reason this still purrs despite her age. I got it for $12 and online you can get them for around $100-$150. Plus, a new KitchenAid counter top mixer will easily put you back about $300 and probably won’t last as long anymore. Ahh, you have to love planned obsolescence. I really enjoy naming inanimate objects, as I feel it helps create a closer bond, and Chris is gunning for Sir. Stir. I’m not really feeling it, but he was really proud of coming up with it so I’ll meet him half way with Senorita Stir.  I’m just bubbling with excitement. I can make so much gluten free bread, baked goods, and big, big batches of ice cream. All I need to do is call the company and see if any of the dough-hook attachments they sell will still fit it.

 

There she is all strapped in and ready to go. Safety first! I’m hoping a friend with sweet Sharpie skills will decorate her for me.

Strapped In

Chris’s mom also got me this awesome immersion stick blender from Cuisinart. It has a whisk attachment, a container you can attach and chop in, and the blade part is removable for easy cleaning. I’m very excited to make some smooth soups with it. I tried it out on my post workout protein shake and it worked a lot better than my blender. Something tells me our new apartment will need more counter space!

Photo Credit: Cutlery & More

 

I also had a really successful workout yesterday. I decided to do some Blogilates videos and butts and legs were on the schedule. On the squats I used my sandbag (I think I have about 15-17 pounds in there) to get some extra burn. I also did that fitness list HIIT again once at the beginning and once at the end. Honestly, I did so much better than the first time and didn’t feel like throwing up. Since my neck hurts and my head is throbbing I see no point in working out tonight. Glad I got it in yesterday! Time to rest up and see what tomorrow brings.

 

As my mother says: be smart, be safe. Have a Happy New Years!!!

Peel Away

❤ Jocellyn