Homemade Winter Squash Soup Recipe

Winter is here, and with it comes the season of soup. I love soup like I love an oversized scarf. It’s cozy, it’s warming, and if you do it right, it’s totally healthy and pretty much totally acceptable to eat in mass quantities.

I recently attended a winter hibernation workshop (yes, seriously, it was incredible), and my acupuncturist, Amanda Valenti, made a pumpkin soup that knocked my socks off. According to Amanda and the wisdom of Chinese medicine, this soup is good for you in many ways: it moistens the lungs and large intestine, improves digestion, warms hands and feet during winter season. Also: it’s flippin’ delicious.

I modified the recipe a bit, added a box of organic pumpkin soup to increase the volume and ensure plentiful leftovers, and went a little wild with the toppings. I highly encourage getting weird with the toppings. I even added a dollop of lentils and peas once. We’ve been slurping on this soup ever since, and you oughta make yourself a batch:

Homemade Winter Squash Soup Ingredients

  • 1 bag of organic chopped butternut squash from the produce section, or a regular ‘ole whole butter nut squash, peeled.
    Note: Making this at camp, or cooking in a rush? I recently tried Straight From The Root pre-cooked organic vegetables, and they’re the jam. If you’re feeling crazy, toss in a few of their roasted carrots too.
  • 1 onion diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 piece of peeled fresh ginger (about 1.5 inches), minced
  • A dash of cinnamon, or a few cloves.
  • 1 box (32 oz) of organic vegetable broth
  • 1 box (32 oz) of organic pumpkin soup
  • 2 tablespoons oil (we use sunflower)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional toppings: sunflower + pumpkin seeds, crispy kale, sunflower seed sprouts (pictured), freshly chopped cilantro, a splash of crema, whatever floats your boat.

Soup Makin’ Directions

  1. Peel ginger. Chop garlic, onion, and ginger.
  2. Combine butternut squash, cinnamon/clove, and vegetable broth in a pot. Bring the mixture to a bubbly boil, then simmer on low for 20 minutes (10 minutes if you’re only using pre-cooked squash from The Root).
  3. Toss in the onion, garlic, and ginger. Continue simmering until the onions are squishy.
  4. If you had cloves, remove them.
  5. Combine mixture, almond milk, and box of pumpkin soup using a hand mixer, Vitamix, however you blend things.
  6. Top with crunchy, crisp, refreshing edible hipster decor. Enjoy.

Are you as obsessed with this soup as I am? Send your undying gratitude (and requests for acupuncture appointments) to Amanda at The Little Wellness Place, and follow her IG! If you’re local to SLC, come check out one of their monthly workshops + events with me! Otherwise, slurp away and stay warm.

Disclosure: This is a totally un-sponsored post. I’m just low-key obsessed with Amanda, her cooking skills, her acupuncture magic, and all of the wonderful women at Little Wellness Place.

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Easiest Recipe for Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup (ever!)

For some folks, the winter season is just an excuse to crank up the heater and indulge in an endless supply of homemade pumpkin spice lattesbut for those of us who live in a house full of dirtbag climbers, the winter months are all about survival.

You see, we don’t run the heat, so at this very moment, it’s about 55º in my kitchen – which means everything is cold. So cold, in fact, that when my housemate poured fresh coffee into his tall cup, the glass was so cold that it shattered upon contact with the hot liquid. In a world where everything is cold, hot food becomes a dietary staple.

My favorite way of warming up with edibles? Homemade soup! Stew a giant pot of hearty liquid warmth, and you’ve got instant heat to last up to a week. And while I love a fancy soup just as much as the next gal, there’s nothing better than an easy, simple soup. Plus, the entire house seems to warm up with the smells of stewing veggies and simmering broth.

This homemade chicken noodle soup recipe yields 10 mason jars worth of goodness – plenty to last you at least a week – and this may just be one of the easiest soup recipes, ever. The most difficult part of making this soup is merely the effort that it requires to patiently wait for your soup to reach optimal soup-age – but there’s no shame in sneaking a spoonful or two during the cooking process.

What you need:

  • 50 ounces (6 ¼ cups) of 100% natural chicken broth | Since I’m on a dirtbag budget I used the 99% fat free canned version from Swanson.
  • 3 cups carrots  *
  • 2 cups celery *
  • 1 yellow onion *
  • 12 ounces of wide egg noodles
  • 1.25 lbs of chicken breast * | We get ours from Earth Fare; it’s ‘local’ chicken from Springer Mountain in Georgia!
  • 2 cubes of bouillon/seasoning of your choice
  • 4 cups of water | Purely to add to the soup as it cooks; additional water will be used to boil the noodles.

* Bonus Points if you get these items from a local farm or market!

How to make the easiest homemade chicken noodle soup (ever):

1. In the biggest pot you’ve got, start boiling some water. Chop your chicken breast into smaller pieces (think about 8 per breast), and toss ‘em into the water to boil.

2. While the chicken is cooking, begin preparing your vegetables. Dice the onion; slice each celery stick in half, and chop; slice and halve the carrots. The size and thickness is up to you – I prefer to make my veggies in a variety of sizes to make each bite a surprise.

3. After about 10 minutes, check the chicken – if there is no pink left in the middle, drain it and set it aside to cool for a few minutes.

4. While you’re working on the chicken, toss your vegetables and two cups of water into the pot. I added a small amount of chicken broth, to soak up some flavor while the veggies softened. Add celery and carrots first, then onions later. Now is a good time to add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the pot.

– At this time, you should also set a separate pot to boil, and cook your package of egg noodles.

: I do not cook my egg noodles all the way; I leave them al dente because they will continue to absorb the broth in the soup (this is a great way to avoid getting them too mushy during storage).

5. Once you can handle the meat, begin to pull the chicken apart with your fingers (or a fork). You’ll quickly find that what began as a small pile of chicken chunks will grow into a rather large heap of shredded meat.

6. Add the chicken, remaining broth, noodles and any other leftover ingredients, to the pot (I didn’t drain the noodles, I added the water along with ‘em). Once the soup reaches a bubbly brew, toss in the bouillon/seasoning cubes. Continue to season to taste, if necessary.

7. Begin the waiting game. Set the soup to a simmer, and occasionally stir and taste for at least two hours. The longer, the better – but it may be hard to resist the temptation of pouring yourself a bowl.8. Ladle your soup into mason jars, and set some aside in the freezer (not completely full), and some in the fridge to be eaten quickly.

After an afternoon spent tending to my vat of homemade chicken noodle soup, I was left feeling almost eager for all the mason jar rations to be devoured so I could cook up another big batch of soul-warming soup. I’m thinking loaded baked potato soup may be next up on the schedule…

Do you love soup, too? What’s your favorite flavor?

I reckon I’ll be making quite a few more kinds of soup this season,
so let me know which variety I should experiment with next!

For more foodie fun, check out my “For The Foodies” board on Pinterest.
And if you liked this recipe, add it to your boards – and give it a ‘thumbs up’! 

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I ate flowers for dinner last night – an adventure in cooking squash blossoms

About a month ago, Niko and I instituted what may be our greatest tradition of all time – Saturday morning dates to the farmers market at Tallahassee’s Market Square pavilion. Each week, we take a leisurely drive across town to the familiar covered gathering spot where a collection of local farms congregate to peddle their edibles.

This weekend, we made the ultimate discovery – well, I did. While scouring for fresh garlic, Niko guided me over to a smaller stand run by an unfamiliar woman I hadn’t seen before. Her table was heavy with winter melons, chanterelle mushrooms, fresh green onion stalks, and two baskets full of squash blossoms. I immediately bounced on the blossoms, while Niko looked at me with a very puzzled look on his face.

Uh, flowers for dinner?” is basically what his expression read.

Silly boy, Niko had clearly never experienced the tasty delight of noshing on an edible flower. I hadn’t eaten squash blossoms in years, let alone ever actually cooked it myself, but I was determined to make it work – so I paid the meager $3.00 for my basket of blossoms, and dumped the dainty flowers into my produce bag.

Continue reading

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How to Cook Spaghetti Squash and an Adventure to the Coastline

As promised, I engaged in another session of spaghetti squash culinary experimentation. This time, I made sure to take plenty of photos to share with my loyal readers. The occasion for the evening? My good friend Ashley was making her first visit to the new condo, and we decided to ban all man-folk in favor of a ladies’ dinner.

Here’s how to whip up a phenomenal dinner of spaghetti squash in a homemade tomato sauce with veggies: First, split open your giant squash. My first attempt at Marisa’s house involved a long round of slashing and knife wielding, but this second effort proved much easier. I was able to easily wedge my biggest knife into the squash and crack it open, as is shown in the first picture below. Next, I scooped out the gooey pulp in the same manner you would approach gutting a pumpkin, as illustrated in the second picture. Then, pop that sucker into the oven at about 425 degrees, and let it sit for a while.

In the meantime, I got started on chopping all the veggies and preparing the sauce. I included green peppers, onion, yellow squash, zucchini, carrots and garlic for this sauce. My only regret is that I wish I had chopped up the vegetables more finely, so keep that in mind. The sauce was made using regular ‘ole Hunts canned tomato sauce and a whole load of spices. My favorite part of cooking? My ‘crap bowl’ – it’s the spare bowl where all scraps, onion skins, garlic butts and other cooking debris get tossed.

Once everything is all prepared, toss your veggies into the sauce and let them simmer for a while to release their flavors and soak up the spices. Your spaghetti squash will be ready for forking soon, so check up on it frequently. You’ll know it’s ready once you can run your fork against the fleshy inside and long strains of squash peel off like, well, spaghetti. Then throw that goodness into the sauce and let everything cook for at least ten minutes, on low. Don’t pull a Katie and try to cook everything on high – it won’t work.

When everything has had time to properly simmer, sizzle and sauce-ify, you’re ready for dinner. You can eat spaghetti squash solo, but I enjoy putting a small bed of regular spaghetti underneath to add some variation to the texture of each bite. Adding regular pasta is also a great idea if you’re looking to keep lots of leftovers, or if you have a large group of guests to feed. We paired our saucy morsels with freshly baked rolls, crisp salads with mango poppy seed dressing, and a new brew I picked up, Cable Car Amber Ale – which tasted strangely like soy sauce in my opinion.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the coast. Niko, Jeff and Kendal have gone off on a 90-mile bike ride to Saint George Island – crazy, I know. They set out at about 7:00 AM this morning, and a group of us will be riding in a caravan, in cars, to meet them out by the beach. We’ve planned an evening of camping either on Saint George Island or in Tate’s Hell National Park, and will enjoy cold beers under the stars, warm embers from our campfire and sleeping in the hatchback of my car. It ain’t a climbing trip, but it will definitely be an adventure. Enjoy your long weekend, readers!

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It’s official: the new condo has passed the ‘Climber Dinner Party’ test!

Within the past year, I have developed a huge adoration for hosting, and attending, family-style dinners with my climber crew. Not quite apt for pounding shots of vodka or the Florida State ‘club’ scene, my kin from the Tallahassee Rock Gym have fallen into a trend of pot lucks, dinner parties and barbecue grilling.

My enormous old house at 2208 proved to be an excellent venue for hosting dinners; it had a spacious kitchen, lots of room for socializing and a great backyard for fire pits. Moving into my new, smaller condo presented a possible detriment to my passion for being a hostess – but fear not, because the new place has passed the ‘Dinner Party’ test with flying colors. The clean, updated kitchen was one of the first things that drew me to the property, and cooking up huge batches of spaghetti with alfredo sauce – in both vegetarian and chicken varieties – was achieved without fault, if you’ll overlook Niko’s rookie mistake of putting way too much spaghetti in a boiling pot.

What did my guests enjoy the most about the new digs? Our big, cushy couches. The last house meekly offered a painful futon that people refused to torture their rear ends with, so the new couches are a much welcomed improvement. I just need to learn how not to fall asleep on them, which has potential to become an issue.

As usual, I had a wonderful evening with my favorite people. My faithful dinner guests never fail to supply our meals with tasty treats, and this time we were delighted with John and Libby’s famous spicy guacamole, whole grain garlic bread, munchies from my mom and heaps of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Coors – which brings me to a totally irrelevant exclamation: Coors vs. Coors Light is a ridiculous battle that should never be fought. Coors, for the win.

If you haven’t had the fortune of attending one of our weekly dinner sessions, do yourself a favor and invite yourself over. Words can’t begin to express the wonderful group of people whose friendship I have been blessed to acquire. Last night, we enjoyed a smoky grilled feast at Ashley and Monty’s charming new house – and of course I’ll be posting those photos shortly.

Until then, keep munchin’ and keep truckin’ onwards. The upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. weekend had promised three days of unadulterated climbing in the North Georgia/Southern Tennessee areas, but the weather forecast seems to be raining on our parade – literally. As always, I’ll keep you updated!

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Tasty Thursdays – Discovering the Art of Spaghetti Squash

I always had suspicions that my best friend Marisa never eats. Her fridge is always empty, and she never comes out to restaurants. Boy, was I wrong. After an amazing meal of spaghetti squash, garlic bread and freshly caught fish from Key West, I have abandoned my sentiments about Marisa’s eating habits. You’ll have to excuse my shoddy iPhone photos, but I just had to share images of the concoction.

The spaghetti squash became dinner on a whim, which was made apparent by our ill-fated first attempt to ‘shred’ the squash. Our naivety in the realm of squash was made even more obvious during the twenty minutes it took me hacking away at the vegetable’s hard body before it finally cracked through, exposing a fleshy, pulpy inside that smelled like raw pumpkin guts. It took some trial and error, but eventually we had a heaping pile of ‘spaghetti’ in front of us.

To accompany our fibrous ‘pasta,’ we prepared a savory sauce with four cans of tomato paste, diced green pepper, zucchini slice, crushed garlic and plenty of onions. Shockingly, there was not a grain of salt to be found in Marisa’s entire house, but we managed to make the sauce delicious regardless – who knew you don’t need a heap of salt to make something tasty? She also whipped up whole grain garlic bread topped with vegan cheese, and baked a few fillets from fish she caught herself while vacationing home in Key West.

This meal undoubtedly deserves a repeat. I can’t wait until Niko gets his hands on a good spaghetti squash recipe so he can cook me something phenomenal, as always. When we make another batch of this delicious mess, I’ll be sure to have my camera on hand to capture the squash in its true glory.

Munch on, readers!

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Scrumptious Sunday – Ashley’s Infamous Bean Dip

Last night, I threw a pot luck at my house as an early birthday celebration. My counter tops were teeming with all sorts of treats, and we opened up my beautiful backyard for the first time, complete with a fire pit! I had a wonderful night with my giant ‘birthday girl’ cup full of my mom’s sangria and a crowd of my favorite people. We roasted marshmallows, watched undefeated champs Ryan and Sam dominate the beer pong table, toasted to Florida State’s unexpected victory and basked in each other’s company – but the undeniable highlight of the evening was Ashley Laing’s infamous, unbeatable, devilish bean dip.

This bean dip makes an appearance at every food-bearing occasion that Ashley attends. It is the most phenomenal dish that tortilla chips have ever been blessed enough to get dunked in. The dip is simple, ingenious, and dangerously addictive. Last night, the first batch lasted about an hour, largely due to the fact that the secret wasn’t out yet. Once the glassware was scraped clean, Ashley cooked up a second batch – and this time it was gone within 15 minutes. Like a flock of starving vultures, we ascended upon the dip and feasted uncontrollably. The boys could not stop gushing with praise for Ashley’s tasty bean dip; it’s an irresistible explosion of hot beans lathered in cream cheese and dripping with melted shredded cheddar.

Here’s how to make it:

  • Ingredients:
    1. One stick of Philadelphia cream cheese.
    2. One can of chili beans, can be vegetarian or meaty!
    3. Shredded cheese, I prefer cheddar.
    4. A casserole dish, or similar ceramic/glassware.
    5. A bag of tortilla chips.
  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  • Spread the cream cheese in an even layer across the bottom of the dish.
  • Layer the entire can of beans/chili across the cream cheese layer.
  • Sprinkle a hearty amount of shredded cheese across the top of the dip.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes – this is a rough estimate, so check on it frequently!
  • Let it stand for a few minutes after removing from the oven; it’s hot as all hell.

I wish I had taken some shots of the dip with my digital camera, but I only used about half a roll with my AE-1, so we’ll have to wait for photos. Images could never do this delicious dip justice; you’ll have to taste it for yourself. Kudos to Ashley for sharing this stunning quick-fix masterpiece, and a million thanks to her mom, who came up with the dish as a fast solution for last minute pot luck parties.

Thanks to everyone who came out to the house last night! I had a phenomenal evening munching on my wine-soaked fruit and enjoying the company of my favorite climbers and friends. Six days until my birthday, folks!

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Tasty Tuesday – Basil Vinaigrette

I wish I could claim this fabulous recipe as my own, but the very talented Gwendolyn of Patent and the Pastry is responsible for sharing today’s tantalizing treat, which originated from the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook. Her basil vinaigrette looks so phenomenal that I was tempted to lick the screen. I’m dying for Niko’s basil plant to get big enough so we can make a batch of this stuff. Check out her photos:

Here’s what you need to stick in your blender:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 ounces fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cracked pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil

Ingredient list compliments of this original posting by Patent and the Pantry.

Folks, this is not merely a topping for salads. I am having naughty thoughts about slathering a tomato, mozzarella and onion sandwich with this delicious stuff. Hell, I’d have a wonderful evening with just a giant bowl of cherry tomatoes and basil vinaigrette – maybe a glass of my new favorite ‘Sweet Red’ wine to top it off.

If you’re looking for a delicious read, or want to pick up a few unique recipes – I highly suggest a visit to Patent and the Pantry. On top of the mouth-watering dishes you’ll find on this blog, Gwendolyn’s food photography is simply stunning. A few of my other favorite dishes featured on her site include lemon ricotta pancakes and the disturbingly simple microwave lime cheesecake. I am smitten with this blog – and could seriously go for a midnight snack.

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