Category: Dinner

Curried Butternut Squash Soup



I love squash soup.  It’s a wonderful, veggie filled, hearty soup perfect for a cold night (which Chicago has had quite a few of lately . . . ).


This recipe is a little different than the traditional flavors you may have found in squash soup thanks to the addition of curry powder.  The curry powder adds a spicy element and really balances the sweetness of the squash.


Because of the curry flavors, I opted to top the soup with some traditional curry accompaniments including toasted sweetened coconut and scallions.  I also decided to roast up the butternut squash seeds, which made for a crunchy, salty topping on the soup.


The last thing I’ll mention about what makes this soup extra special is that I roasted the veggies (and fruit – there is an apple in this recipe as well!) in the oven for about 45 minutes prior to pureeing them.  The roasting method really extracts extra flavor by allowing the sugars in the veggies to caramelize a bit.


Curried Butternut Squash Soup – Makes 4-6 entrée size portions (inspired by this recipe)


  • 4 cups chopped butternut squash (about 4 lbs), chopped into one inch pieces
  • 1/2 a medium sized onion, cut into one inch pieces
  • 1 apple, peeled and cored and cut into one inch pieces (use anything but a tart green apple)
  • 2-3 TB olive oil
  • S+P
  • 2-4 cups chicken or veggie broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 TB heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup scallions, sliced on a bias


Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Place veggies in a single layer on 1-2 sheet pans.  Drizzle with olive oil to coat veggies and season with salt and pepper. Roast veggies for 40-50 minutes or until veggies are tender.

Place roasted veggies into a food processor and puree until smooth.

Place pureed veggies into a stock pan and add 2-4 cups chicken broth (depending on the consistency you prefer) and the curry powder.  Heat the soup, taste and adjust for seasoning.  Finish with cream and serve with condiments.

For condiments:

To toast the coconut, place in a single layer on a sheet pan.  Cook in a 350 oven for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.

To make the toasted butternut squash seeds.  Remove them from the squash. Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray. Place the seeds on the sheet and spray with more cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt.  Cook for 10-15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Greek Night Part 2- Hummus, Whipped Feta Dip and Spiced Labneh


If you are looking for delicious sauces/dips to eat alongside the flakey pita bread I made last week, then I have some great recipes for you.

Tommy is a firm believer that the sauce makes the dish.  He prefers to have something to top, dip or spread on almost all his food.  So he was THRILLED when he came home to gyros, pita and three delicious dips.

The first recipe I have for you is for a whipped feta dip (as pictured above).  It has four ingredients and couldn’t be easier, or more tasty.  It obviously was delicious alongside the pita bread, but also would work as a fabulous dip for raw veggies as well.

Whipped Feta Dip- makes about 1 1/4 cups



  • 6 ounces good feta cheese (imported or domestic is fine- just make sure its good quality)
  • 2 TB finely chopped dill, plus more for topping
  • 2 TB finely chopped cilantro (parsley would work well too)
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • S+P to taste


Combine feta and a few tablespoons of water in the bowl of and food processor and blend until you have a whipped consistency.  Stir in dill and cilantro and freshly ground pepper. Taste for seasoning and add more pepper or salt as necessary.

Pour out into a shallow bowl and top with 2-3 tablespoons of EVOO.

Hummus – Makes about 1 1/2 cups

I don’t know about you, but I don’t love very garlic-y hummus.  It tends to overpower the other flavors in the hummus and leaves you with garlic breath for hours on end.  As such, my hummus contains no garlic.  If you think it is a requirement, by all means, add a couple of cloves!



  • 1 15 ounce can of garbanzo beans
  • 1/4-1/3 cup tahini (I really like tahini, so I added 1/3 cup. If you prefer a more olive oil flavor, then use 1/4 cup)
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 2 TB –1/4 cup olive oil (depending on you prefer the consistency)
  • S+T
  • Paprika for topping
  • Parsley or cilantro for topping
  • Olive Oil for topping


Add beans to the bowl of a food processor and blend for 20 seconds to break down the beans. Add the tahini, olive oil and lemon juice and blend until the hummus is creamy adding more olive oil or tahini if you need to thin it out a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour out into a shallow bowl, top with paprika, chopped cilantro or parsley and 2-3 TB of EVOO.

Spiced Labneh – makes approx. 1 cup:

Labneh is actually Lebanese strained yogurt.  I had Greek yogurt on hand and so used that instead of the traditional lebanese style and it worked great.  The dip using aleppo, which is a slightly spicy pepper that has great depth of flavor. This sauce worked particularly well alongside the gyros.



  • 1 cup Greek or Lebanese strained yogurt
  • 2 tsp aleppo pepper, plus more for topping
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice.
  • S+P
  • EVOO for topping


Whisk the yogurt with the aleppo pepper and ground allspice in a medium bowl until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a shallow bowl and top with 2-3 TB of EVOO and more Aleppo.

Greek Night Part 1–Homemade Gyros and Pita


Now that I have my dream summer internship and school has become less hectic, I have significantly more time on my hands! That means that I can whip up a homemade, Greek feast on a Wednesday night – which Tommy appreciates!

The main dish last night was Gyros, which is a meat dish traditionally roasted on a vertical spit.

I obviously don’t have a vertical spit, so I had to creative with the cooking method. And while the end result wasn’t exactly like the traditional, spit cooked, gyros, the flavors were spot on and it served as a fabulous substitute.


Gyros are often served in sandwich form with pita, tomato, cucumber, lettuce and/or onion and a yogurt sauce.


Even when not served as a sandwich, the above components are still often served as an accompaniment to the meat.

The meat itself is typically lamb or a lamb and beef combo.  I opted for a lamb and beef combo and I thought the outcome was great. If lamb is difficult to find though, feel free to use all beef.

As I mentioned above, gyros are typically served with some sort of yogurt sauce (most traditionally a tzatziki which is a cucumber/dill yogurt sauce).  I have also enjoyed gyros/shwarma with tahini and with hummus.  And because I decided to go all out last night, I made a couple of sauces to use as a dip for the homemade pita and to use in the gyros sandwich. 




If you don’t have the time or energy to make homemade sauces, you can absolutely buy the store bought variety of hummus, tzatziki or any other Greek dip.  Just make sure you have good pita bread to use as a dip for those tasty sauces!  As I said above, I made some AMAZING pita/flakey bread and if you are doing this for a big Sunday dinner, it is definitely worth the extra effort.


Lamb and Beef Gyros – Serves 4-5


  • .75 lbs lamb stew meat, ground
  • .75 lbs beef stew meat, ground
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely minced or grated in a food processor
  • 1 TB minced garlic
  • 1 TB fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 TB minced cilantro
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground black peppers
  • 1.5 tsp salt


Combine grated onions, garlic, oregano, cumin, thyme, cilantro, salt and pepper with the ground beef and lamb.  Mix well with your hands until well combined.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-4 hours (the longer, the more the flavors will blend).

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and bring a large kettle of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, place the meat mixture into a food processors and pulse for about a minute until everything is finely chopped.  Take two loaf pans and spray with cooking spray.  Distribute the meat between the two loaf pans and put the pans into a roasting pan.  Fill the roasting pan with boiling water (half way up the loaf pans) and place the meat into the oven.

Cook the gyro meat in the over for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the meat is no longer pink.  Allow the meat to cool slightly and slice very thinly.

Serve with pita bread, sliced tomato, chopped lettuce, hummus, tahini, tzatziki or other sauces.

Homemade Pita/Flakey Bread – Makes 10 (inspired by recipe from Bon Appetite)


  • 3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 10 TBs butter
  • 3/4 warm water


Combine flour and kosher salt in a large bowl or the mixing bowl of an electric mixer. Melt 6 TB of butter and drizzle into flour mixture. With the mixer going, gradually mix in 3/4 cup warm water.  Knead with your hands or with a bread paddle for 5 minutes until the dough is shiny and soft. Allow to rest in a warm place for at least 4 hours.

Once the dough has rested, divide it into 10 pieces and roll into balls.  Place the balls on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 15 minutes.


While the dough is resting, melt 4 TB butter in a small dish.  After the dough has rested, take one ball and roll it out into a thin round.  Brush the thin round with melted butter.


Roll the dough into itself and create a long thin rope.


Wind the rope into a tight coil:


From here, roll the coil out again. The rolled-out coil will separate into, thin, individual layers that creates a flakey texture.

After you have completed rolling out one ball, place onto wax paper and continue until all balls have been rolled out.

Heat a large cast iron skillet and cook each pita piece for 2 minutes per side or until each side is blistered.


Once each pita has finished cooking, place them on a wire rack and sprinkle with sea salt or kosher salt.

DSC_2594Next up- the three delicious sauce that went with this meal!

Spectacular Side Dish – Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

I haven’t been blogging as much as I would like to of late, but my New Year’s Resolution is to get back into it.  With everything that is going on at school, it has been difficult to find time to make new and creative dishes, let alone blog about them, but the New Year has me inspired to get back into the creative cooking groove!

My first recipe of the new year features wonderful and healthy brussels sprouts.  Brussels sprouts are the perfect winter vegetable because they are in season, hearty, and so rich tasting.


One of my favorite ways to prepare brussels sprouts is to shave and roast them until they are crispy and delicious.



Once roasted, I toss the shaved brussels sprouts in a bacon fat and red onion vinaigrette. Oh, and then I top everything with with crispy bacon.


It is a pretty fantastic side dish that would go well with steak, chicken, pork or fish.


The one thing I would recommend is using the prescribed amount of brussels sprouts. It might seem or look like a lot, but the brussels sprouts really shrink when roasted and caramelized in the oven.

Enjoy this side dish straight out of the oven or serve at room temperature (it holds up really well)!


Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Bacon – Serves 4


  • 2.5 lbs brussels sprouts, shaved using the slicing attachment on a food processors or carefully with your knife
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (about 1.5 TB)
  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon, diced
  • 2-3 TB olive oil
  • S+P to taste


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Slice brussels sprouts until very thin.  Spray two cooking sheets with cooking spray (you want to make sure that the b sprouts have enough room to roast and get crispy). Place the shaved b sprouts onto the cookie sheets and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper.  Roast for 20-25 minutes or until the sprouts are crispy and slightly browned.

Place the bacon in a large cold sauté pan and cook over medium heat until crispy.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to remove excess oil. Do not pour the bacon fat off! Depending on much fat your bacon rendered, you may want to add some olive oil to sauté the onion  Given that this will be the “sauce” for the sprouts, you want to make sure you have enough to coat everything.

Add the diced onion to the pan and cook over medium low heat for 10-15 minutes until the onions are softened but not browned. Add the garlic in the last 2-3 minutes so that it is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the sprouts from the oven and pour into a large serving bowl. Top with the bacon fat and onion mixture and stir everything to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Top everything with the diced crispy bacon and give it one more mix. Serve warm.

Bucatini with Turkey Meatballs


I have been craving spaghetti and meatballs for weeks! I don’t know if its because the weather is changing and I am in the mood for hearty food? Or perhaps its because I recently saw an episode of Barefoot Contessa where Ina visits a meatball restaurant in NYC and haven’t been able to get the thought of them out of my head?


Regardless of the reason, I finally satisfied my craving the other night.  The result was a delicious and hearty meatball over perfectly al dente bucatini all served in a simple, yet tasty tomato sauce.


If you are intimidated by making meatballs – don’t be! At least don’t be intimidated by making these meatballs.  These guys are relatively straight forward.  The only thing you can’t do is over work the meatball mixture or they can get tough.


To make this recipe easier, you could absolutely substitute the homemade tomato sauce for your favorite jarred variety.  If you do that, this recipe becomes something you could throw together in the time it takes to boil and cook the pasta, but feels like a special treat!


Bucatini with Turkey Meatballs – Serves 4 (inspired by Giada’s Turkey Meatballs)


Turkey Meatballs:

  • 1 lb lean turkey meat (93% lean)
  • 3 TB tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup italian bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced (make sure you mince these extremely fine. I had pieces that were a bit too big)
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Simple Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 slices pancetta (about 1.5 ounces), diced
  • 1/2 cup diced onions (about 1 small onion)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 28 ounce can whole or crushed tomatoes (preferably san marzano)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • S+P to taste


  • 1 lb bucatini or other long stranded pasta
  • Olive oil for frying the meatballs


To make the meatballs, combine the grated onion (best if you use a micro-plane), garlic, bread crumbs, tomato paste, salt, pepper, egg, parmesan and chopped parsley in a large bowl.  Stir well to combine.  Add the ground turkey and mix everything until just incorporated. Do not overmix.

Meanwhile, heat about 1/2 cup of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  While the oil heats, form the turkey into 12 medium-sized balls.

Add the meatballs to the hot oil and cooked for 2 minutes per side until well browned.

Remove the meatballs from the oil and place on a plate.

Pour off excess oil from the pan used to cook the meatballs.  Add the pancetta to the pan and cook for medium heat for 5 minutes until just lightly browned.

Once browned, remove the pancetta using a slotted spoon and add the onion to the pan. Cook for another 5 minutes until the onions get soft, but not brown.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes to the pan and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 10 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened.  If you prefer a smoother sauce, blend it until desired consistency.  Once you have the desire consistency, add the turkey meatballs and pancetta back and cover with a lid.  Cook for 10 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through.  Reduce the heat and keep the meatballs and sauce warm until ready to combine with the pasta.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once at a boil, add a handful of salt and cook the pasta until al dente.  Drain and put back into the large pot. Right before you are ready to finish the dish, remove the meatballs so you add the sauce to the pasta.  Add the tomato sauce and stir with the pasta until well combined.

Serve the pasta into shallow bowls and top each with three meatballs and a healthy portion of grated parmesan.

Next Page »