Butternut Squash and Cream Cheese Soup

Butternut Squash and Cream Cheese Soup

Inspiration: This recipe came to us via Dayna, one of our blog readers (thanks again, Dayna!). As soon as I read the ingredient list and saw that the soup included cream cheese, I was completely sold. I already love butternut squash – especially in the form of butternut squash soup – so once cream cheese was thrown into the mix, there was no way that I wasn’t whipping this up. What a fantastic and interesting combination of ingredients.

What We Loved: This soup instantly became one of our favorites. The best thing about it for me was the texture, which was amazingly, velvety smooth. It really was the creamiest soup that I’ve ever had. We loved how you could really taste the rich cream cheese in every bite (what’s not to love about that?), and of course the backbone flavor of the butternut squash was hearty and delicious. To finish it all off, the roasted squash seeds on top added salty and crunchy bursts of flavor. I really couldn’t wait to eat the leftovers of this soup for lunches, and I already can’t wait to make it again.

Tips: I had quite a bit of trouble peeling the skin from the squash after baking it (without security cameras, it’ll run away from you), since the squash was so tender and took a while to cool. Next time, I’ll probably use a vegetable peeler and peel the squash before putting it into the oven.

Butternut Squash and Cream Cheese Soup
Source: Dayna and Brian

2 medium sized butternut squash
Raw butternut squash seeds
Olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons chopped onion
3 cups chicken stock (use vegetable to keep the recipe vegetarian)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 8 oz package cream cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, placing the seeds into a sieve. Clean the seeds and spread them onto a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. Place the squash on another baking sheet. Drizzle the flesh with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the squash is tender. Remove from the oven and let cool.

3. After you remove the squash from the oven, bake the seeds for about 15 minutes until nice and browned, stirring occasionally.

4. When the squash is cooled, remove the skin.

5. Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add the onion, and cook until softened. Add the stock, squash, marjoram, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes.

6. Add the cream cheese, and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until melted.

7. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or food processor.

8. Season to taste with Kosher salt.

9. Serve topped with the roasted squash seeds.

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Hearty Beef and Vegetable Soup

: So now that the holidays are over (happy new year, everyone!) and our schedule is calming back down again, I’ve really been in the mood to get back into the kitchen and cook some heartwarming, comforting meals. After rushing around so much for what seems like a month or two, there’s nothing better than having the time to enjoy some great dinners with each other at the end of the day.

What We Loved: The base of this soup – the beef stock – is really what makes the soup. After cooking all day on the stovetop, the flavor profile of the stock is rich and hearty, with layer upon layer of comforting beef and vegetable goodness. Brandon and I both agreed that we had never tasted a better beef soup than this one, and it’s entirely due to the fact that the beef stock was so outstanding. And on top of how much we enjoyed the stock, the beef itself was just as good. When the stock is done cooking, the beef just falls right off of the soup bones and shreds apart, giving you tender, succulent meat to add back to your soup. I chose sweet potatoes, carrots, pearl onions, and green beans for the vegetables that I added in to the soup, and we both really loved what each of those vegetables added to the dish. The sweet potatoes added a lovely sweet bite, the beans and carrots added that familiar and characteristic vegetable flavor, and the pearl onions added nice pops of rich onion flavor. This is the kind of soup that is the definition of comfort in a bowl, and it’s perfect for the cold, snowy evenings that I know are headed our way.

Tips: As I use vegetables in my cooking on a day-to-day basis, I save all of the odds and ends that I wouldn’t otherwise use (onion tops, carrot ends, herb stalks, etc.) in a freezer bag in the freezer. I wait until I have a good amount (several cups worth) before making stock, so that I can add those vegetable bits to my stock rather than using fresh, new vegetables. I would really suggest doing the same – it’s a great way to avoid waste and to get use out of all of your vegetables. Secondly, this is an all-day project since it involves making your own beef stock, so make sure that you have enough time. I’d recommend making this recipe on a Sunday, because it really does provide for a wonderful and cozy Sunday evening supper. It’s just the kind of meal that Sundays were made for.

Hearty Beef and Vegetable Soup
Source: Original Recipe

About 3 lbs very meaty soup bones
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Any desired dried herbs
A few cups worth of vegetable odds and ends that you’ve saved in the freezer (i.e., carrot and zucchini ends, onion tops, stalks from herbs, Parmesan rinds, etc.)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cup frozen pearl onions
1 1/2 cups green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces

1. Season the soup bones well with salt and pepper. Roast them on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about an hour.

2. Pour the soup bones and any accumulated juices into a large stock pot (mine is 8 quarts). Fill the pot with water, leaving enough space to add your vegetables.

3. Pour your vegetables on top, and add a good bunch of salt, pepper, and any dried herbs that you prefer (I used some dried marjoram that I had on hand).

4. Bring the pot to a boil, and then immediately reduce to a very light simmer. Let cook for about 5 hours on the stovetop.

5. Remove the soup bones/meat and vegetables from the stock, reserving the soup bones and meat. Pour the stock through a  fine mesh sieve into another large pot.

6. Pull the meat from the bones with your hands (it should fall right apart). Shred the meat, removing any fat, and return all of the shredded meat to the pot with the stock.

7. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots, pearl onions, and green beans to the pot. Return the pot to the stove, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, until all of the vegetables are softened.

8. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary (I add a lot of salt at this point).

9. Serve the soup topped with finely shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired (it’s good with or without).

Mushroom, Sweet Potato, and Smoked Gouda Chowder

Inspiration: I’ve been making Elly’s soup for years, and it has always been one of our favorite fall/winter meals. When we stopped eating white potatoes at home a few years ago, I sadly put this recipe aside, and I haven’t made it since. Until…..the magic day when it occurred to me to use sweet potatoes instead, since we still include those in our diets every now and then. I don’t know why it took so long for that thought to cross my mind!

What We Loved: One thing that I’ve discovered about my preferences is that I tire easily of brothy/watery soups, but I could eat thick, hearty chowders like this every single day in the colder months and be a happy girl. Those thinner soups can sometimes be a means to end, but I can never wait to eat this soup. It’s fantastic and sits solidly in our favorites category (with Black Bean and Sausage Soup, Pork Hock and 15 Bean Soup, and Three Bean Soup with Ham, if you’re counting). Like my other favorite soups, the depth of flavor in this one is just out of this world. The mushrooms are really prominent and earthy; there’s a great, rich zing of salty bacon; and the sweet potatoes lend such a lovely, mild sweetness. We really love the velvety, creamy texture (which results from those sweet potatoes, some smoky gouda, and a bit of half and half), and another plus is that this soup is certainly filling enough to be a full meal. A recipe like this makes me happy that we’ve got some nice cold evenings ahead of us to enjoy it.

Tips: You can puree as much or as little of this soup as you’d like. I’ve pureed it all of the way in the past or only a little bit, and I’ve found that I really prefer it pureed about halfway (if that). That way, you get the super creamy texture, but you still have nice, big chunks of mushroom/sweet potato and salty little pieces of bacon in there, too.

Mushroom, Sweet Potato, and Smoked Gouda Chowder
Source: Adapted from Elly Says Opa

6 slices bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced (I used portabellas)
3-4 cups sweet potatoes, cubed
2 cloves garlic, minced
Good pinch of dried thyme
1 bay leaf
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup half and half
4 oz smoked gouda, shredded
Kosher salt
Black Pepper

1. In a stockpot or dutch oven, cook the bacon until it has rendered its fat and is crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside.

2. Add the diced onions and the mushrooms to the bacon fat in the pot. Season with a little salt and pepper, and cook until the moisture released from the mushrooms evaporates and the vegetables start to brown, about 10-15 minutes.

3. Add the sweet potatoes and the garlic, stirring to combine. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the sweet potatoes are tender. Season again with salt and pepper, and return most of the bacon to the pot, leaving a little extra to garnish the soup.

4. Remove the bay leaf. Puree as much or as little of the mixture as you want in a food processor, and return the pureed soup to the pot (alternatively, use an immersion blender). Add the half and half and the gouda. Simmer until the soup has heated through and the cheese has melted. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

5. Serve, garnished with the extra bacon.

Broccoli Leek Soup with Broccoli Chips

Inspiration: I make so much homemade stock that I’m constantly up to my shoulders in it. As I’ve mentioned a few times before, we get two beautiful chickens per month from our CSA, and I make about 12 cups of stock with each of those chickens to stash in my freezer. Then, we sometimes pick up a random goose or duck from the farm that we end up making stock with, and every now and then our share includes a nice batch of beef soup bones. With those numbers, if I don’t keep up with making a lot of soups (and I never do, in the summer time), I quickly find myself running out of freezer space. Thank goodness for this fall weather that has me craving soups and stews!

What We Loved: Well, this soup is basically a thick and hearty bowl full of vegetables. That’s a very nice thing indeed. Plus, it tastes great, too. The soup has a very lovely and fresh vegetable flavor (predominantly that of broccoli, of course), and the little browned bits of broccoli on top are a nice touch. I don’t know about you, but I just love that flavor that comes from browning anything in butter. The soup as a whole is very light, making it a great lunch option, first course for a fancy dinner, or main dinner entree when you’re not feeling like a whole lot of food.

Tips: The recipe as written in the cookbook calls for sour cream as a topping. It’s not pictured here, but we did use creme fraiche as a topping at the table. We loved the cool flavor that the creme fraiche added, so we’d recommend using either creme fraiche or sour cream as a topping in addition to the broccoli chips.

Broccoli Leek Soup
Source: Soup from Williams Sonoma Soup Cookbook; Idea for broccoli chips from Flip Cookbook

2 leeks, white and light green portions only, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 1/2 lbs broccoli, stems thinly sliced and tops cut into small florets (reserve a few stem slices to saute for a topping)
4 cups chicken stock (use vegetable to keep this vegetarian)
Kosher salt and black pepper
Sour cream or creme fraiche for topping, if desired

1. Heat some butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, and saute for a few minutes until softened.

2. Add the broccoli, mix together, and saute for a few minutes longer.

3. Add the stock and plenty of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the broccoli is softened.

4. Puree with an immersion blender or food processor. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Keep warm over low heat.

5. Saute a few of the thin broccoli stem slices in butter until nicely browned.

6. Serve the soup topped with the sauteed broccoli slices and sour cream/creme fraiche, if desired.

Tomato- Rosemary- and White Bean Soup

Tomato, Rosemary, and White Bean Soup

Tomato- Rosemary- and White Bean Soup

*Photo Updated December 2012*

Inspiration: Tomato soup is really a go-to soup for me, because it’s so easy to make and so versatile. I always stick with onions, garlic, tomatoes, and stock, and from there I throw anything that I happen to have on hand into the pot. Any leftover herbs or vegetables; a cup or two of cream or milk that has no use; whatever spices, sauces, or salsas that are sitting around. Some of my creations end up great, and some of them end up not so great, but it’s always fun to mix up the flavor combinations and see what happens. Every once in a while, though, I’ll buy the ingredients for this specific soup. When I first started developing a real love for cooking, this is one of the first recipes that I remember falling in love with, and it was one of my earliest blog posts. All of these years later, it’s still one of my favorite soups – which I think makes it deserving of a shiny new post.

What We Loved: I love this soup so much because it’s so unique. It’s a cross between a creamy white bean soup and a standard tomato soup, and the resulting flavor is very rich and complex. There are a lot of Italian notes from the rosemary and tomato (almost making me want to liken this aspect of the soup to a marinara), and the second level of earthy, buttery white bean flavors competes so well with the tomato flavors. Really, this is like two soups in one. The inclusion of protein in the form of white beans also makes this soup much thicker and more filling than a standard tomato soup, which is another bonus. A thermos of this soup works really great as a work week lunch.

Tips: Giada’s original recipe calls for the soup to be topped with creme fraiche and lemon, but sadly, I haven’t tried this yet for one reason or another. It really sounds great, though, so I would suggest giving it a go if you have the ingredients on hand.

Rosemary Tomato Soup
Source: Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

I made some minor changes to the ingredient list and doubled the recipe so that the soup can last all week for work lunches. Here’s my version:

2 small onions, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 15-ounce cans navy or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable, to keep the dish vegetarian)
2 bay leaves
2 large sprigs fresh rosemary, minced, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. In a large pot, add the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots, and cook until the vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more.

2. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, covered.

3. Remove the bay leaves. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or a food processor.

4. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper.

5. Serve the soup with minced rosemary on top.

Three Bean Soup with Ham

Inspiration:1) I froze the stock from our (nitrate/nitrite free) corned beef that we made at St. Patrick’s Day, and I was on the hunt for a nice soup to showcase it. 2) Brandon bought me this soup cookbook for my last birthday, and I had tried two different soups from it that turned out….well….just awful. One of them made enough to serve an army (two armies?) and became known as The Sludge in our house. As in, “Good grief, another day of The Sludge for lunch…” The other one had a slimy texture that was just….not pleasant. This book seriously needed to be redeemed! 3) Brandon always makes fun of me for this, but I love beans of any kind (definitely in my top ten favorite foods), and bean soups are my absolute favorite kind of soups. Why does Brandon make fun? When he first knew me, I was really unreasonable/obnoxious about how much I detested beans. Which led him to comment after we enjoyed this meal how cool it is how much people change and grow together. It is, isn’t it? :)

What we Loved: Perusing back over all of the soup recipes that I’ve posted, I’d put this one in my top three, up there with my pork hock and 15 bean soup and black bean and sausage soup (I told you, I really love bean soups!). It’s rich, salty, creamy, and chock full of vegetables and nutrients. I think there’s a reason that ham and beans are such a classic combo – that salty, savory ham flavor really complements the mild, creamy beans so well. And I just loved the three different kinds of beans that were used in this recipe, as I thought that you could really taste each one. Pinto beans always remind me of Mexican food since I eat them most often as refried beans, and then there are the mild navy beans and the richer red kidney beans. Paired with a deeply flavorful and rich stock, this is truly comfort food in a bowl. In fact, I already have it on the menu again for a second time.

Helpful Hints: Since I used leftover corned beef stock (heavily salted because I had cooked a corned beef in it) and since ham is pretty salty itself, I didn’t even need to add any additional salt to this soup. This might be completely different for you, though, if you use a light- or no-salt stock. So I would suggest finishing the soup and then salting accordingly. My preference for this one is to make sure that it’s nice and salty!

Three Bean Soup with Ham
Source: Adapted from Williams Sonoma Soup cookbook

1 cup dried pinto beans
1 cup dried kidney beans
1 cup dried navy beans
Olive oil or butter
1 large onion, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
6 cups stock (I used a very flavorful and salty corned beef stock)
2 bay leaves
1 Parmesan rind
2 cups diced ham, more if desired
Black pepper
Kosher salt (if needed)

1. Place the three cups of beans in a pot, and cover with water. Soak for eight hours or overnight, then drain and rinse the beans.

2. In a large soup pot, heat some oil or butter and then add the onions. Cook until softened, then add the carrots and cook until just softened, a few minutes more.

3. Add the beans, garlic, diced tomatoes and juice, stock, bay leaves, Parmesan rind, and ham. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for one hour, or until the beans are softened.

4. Remove the bay leaves and the Parmesan rind. Blend about 1/3 or 1/2 of the soup (or as much/little as you’d like) with an immersion blender or food processor.

5. Season to taste with black pepper, Kosher salt (if needed – mine needed no salt since my stock was very salty), and oregano.

Brazilian Shrimp Soup

Inspiration: A few years back, Brandon was lucky enough to go to Brazil with work, and he brought back some wonderful food experiences. He showed me how to make what is now my favorite summer time mixed drink, the caipirinha (Cachaca, limes, cane sugar, delicious), and he told me a story about getting to drink right out of a coconut at a bar. How fun is that? I don’t know how truly Brazilian this soup is (and I always hesitate to label things as a certain cuisine on my blog for that reason), but with the limes and the coconut and the overall tropical feel, this soup had me dreaming of the paradise that I imagine the beaches of Brazil to be. So I’ll leave the name as it is, and I’ll dream of summer time and sun and caipirinhas.

What we Loved: What a light and refreshing soup. Brandon simply adored it and labeled it as one of his favorite soups in a long time, and I have to agree. The broth is light and creamy with just an ever-so-sweet coconut flavor, which is complemented with bright and fresh flavors of cilantro, lime, and shrimp. It’s a very tropical combination of flavors, and it fits perfectly when you’re looking for a light supper or lunch. This will be going into our regular soup rotation for sure!

Helpful Hints: Our only qualm with this recipe is that since shrimp overcooks so easily, it’s very hard to keep the small shrimp pieces from overcooking while they are sitting in a pot of very hot soup. For the leftovers, the shrimp ended up being overcooked. Brandon suggested sauteeing the shrimp separately, then added them into each person’s soup bowls right at serving time, and that seemed like a great solution to me. That way, the shrimp never overcook. Or, another suggestion would be to replace the shrimp with chicken or even white beans – both seem like great options for this soup. And I don’t think that avocado slices on top would hurt, either!

Brazilian Shrimp Soup
Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Food and Wine

Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
5 cups chicken stock
1 14.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in half horizontally
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
The juice from 1/2 freshly squeezed lime
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1. Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium high heat. Add the onion and bell peppers, and cook until the vegetables are softened. Add the garlic, and cook for a minute more.

2. Add the red pepper flakes, salt, crushed tomatoes, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

3. Add the coconut milk, and return to a simmer.

4. Add the shrimp, and cook until the shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 minutes.

5. Remove the pot from the heat. Stri in the pepper, lime juice, and cilantro, and serve.