Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon and Pumpkin Seeds

*Photo updated October 2011*

Inspiration: Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. I’m a lucky girl and have a lot to be thankful for, and to me, there’s not a better holiday than one devoted to celebrating life’s fortunes with all of the people you love the most.  Combined with great food and the warmness of the holiday season, there’s really nothing better. Before heading home for the best, best, best meal of the year (love you Mom/Brandon’s Mom/Grandma), I wanted to make a meal for Brandon and I that really said fall, since I know that after Thanksgiving, I’ll be in full Christmas/winter mode. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

What we Loved: The flavor of this soup was fantastic. Brandon and I had never had butternut squash before this meal, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. The soup doesn’t have a tremendous amount of ingredients, so I was a bit worried about it being bland and tasting only like…pumpkin?…but the meal was anything but bland. The soup itself had a nice, slightly sweet flavor, almost tasting like it had cinnamon and all sorts of sweet spices added in, even though it didn’t. Paired with the savory elements of onion and garlic, salty bacon, and nutty pumpkin seeds, I couldn’t imagine a better combination of flavors. This was a creamy, sweet, salty, bacony, heartwarming soup, and what I loved most was that it just screamed fall.

Tips: My soup ended up being pretty thick when it was done cooking (almost more like a puree), so I ended up adding in about an extra cup of chicken stock at the end. The consistency will depend on the size of your squash, so I’d recommend just throwing some more stock into the pot if you think you might need a soupier consistency. The soup tastes great with the thick/puree-like texture too, though, so it will depend upon your preferences.

Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon and Pumpkin Seeds
Source: Former Chef

I omitted a few ingredients and modified this recipe just a bit. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

1 large butternut squash
6 slices bacon, sliced into small pieces
1 onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt and black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

1. Peel the squash, remove the seeds, and cut the flesh into 1 inch chunks.

2. Heat a dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, and cook until crispy. Remove most of the bacon from the pot, setting aside for a topping for the soup. Leave some of the bacon and the bacon fat in the pot for flavor within the soup.

3. Add the onions to the pot, and cook until softened. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

4. Add the chicken stock and the squash, and simmer until the squash is tender, approximately 30 minutes.

5. While the soup is cooking, add the pumpkin seeds to a small sauce pan, and cook over low heat until they are starting to brown, just a few minutes. Remove from the heat to avoid burning.

6. Puree the soup by adding it in batches to a food processor or by using an immersion blender.

7. Season the soup with the salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. I’m always sparing with nutmeg, as too much tends to dominate the flavor of the meal, so you should season to preference.

8. Serve the soup, topping it with the bacon crumbles and toasted pumpkin seeds.

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Roasted Red Pepper and Black Bean Soup

Black Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Inspiration: I’ve seen a lot of recipes for various kinds of black bean soup floating around the internet lately. While trying to plan a week of lighter suppers to counteract my love of beer, wine, cheese, etc., etc., I decided that a black bean soup would be perfect. And it just so happened that I served this on the first day of fall, too, which was nice.

What we Loved: I chose this particular black bean soup recipe because it had so many ingredients in it that B and I both adore. Black beans, roasted red peppers, chiles in adobo sauce, a heaping cup of cilantro. I had high hopes for this recipe, and it really didn’t dissapoint. While B was eating, he said that it would have to be a repeat recipe in our household for sure. That’s always a good thing! The flavor combination is really just amazing, with a nice smoky flavor from the adobo sauce and the roasted peppers and a great freshness from the cilantro. The soup turned out really thick and creamy, too, and it was also very spicy, which we loved. I really enjoyed this soup topped with plenty of avocado and green onions.

Helpful Hints: Because of the chile in adobo, this soup is very spicy. If you don’t like much spice, I would consider adding just a bit of the adobo sauce to keep the nice, smoky flavor, or maybe just a small amount of the pepper. I added one chile and some sauce for a super spicy soup. The soup in the original recipe was topped with sour cream, which I omitted because I needed to use up some vegetables instead, but next time I would definitely serve this with sour cream! The nice chill of the sour cream would really pair wonderfully with that spicy heat.

Roasted Red Pepper and Black Bean Soup

Source: A Good Appetite

I changed a few things around in this recipe, using canned beans and using cilantro instead of parsley. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup vidalia onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 red peppers, roasted, stems and seeds removed, and chopped
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1 cup fresh cilantro
Kosher salt
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth to keep this vegetarian)

1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat in a pot. Add the onion, and cook until tender, approximately 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue to cook for an additional minute.

2. Stir in the red peppers, chipotle, oregano, cilantro, and a big pinch fo salt. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth and one can of black beans, and stir to combine.

3. Pour the soup into a food processor, and process until very smooth. I let my food processor run for several minutes to achieve the right consistency. Alternatively, use an immersion blender.

4. Return the soup to the pot. Add the remaining can of beans. Cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for approximately 15 minutes and serve. Top with sour cream, yogurt, avocado, green onions, or any other desired toppings.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Inspiration: Home from Europe with a completely bare pantry, I sat down to make a grocery list and B immediately requested this soup. I absolutely love when he requests anything specific for dinner, so I added it to the menu for our first meal back in the States :)

What we Loved: I’ve made chicken tortilla soup many times over the years. I got my original recipe from allrecipes.com, and it’s been one of those recipes that I’ve made a little bit differently every time because I’ve never been completely satisfied with it. This time, I think that I finally found the recipe that I’m going to keep. This soup is very easy to make, and it has a nice, slightly spicy tomato flavor. It’s very hearty, especially with the addition of avocado cubes, pepperjack cheese cubes, and tortilla chips. My favorite thing about this soup is the creamy contrast of the avocado cubes with the spicy flavor of the soup and the chicken. I photographed this soup before adding the tortilla chips because I didn’t want them to get soggy as I took pictures, but the tortilla chips are of course an essential part of the soup. B particularly loves eating a bunch of chips with his soup, and I really love the added crunch, too.

Helpful Hints: You can certainly cook your chicken any way that you want to for this soup, but I think it adds a great flavor to season the chicken, grill it, and then slice it up before adding it to the pot. In the past, I’ve poached the chicken and shredded it, which is a bit easier, but I’ve really moved away from that method of cooking because I feel like it completely takes away all of the flavor and moisture of the chicken. This time, I seasoned my chicken with just salt and liberal amounts of cracked black pepper before grilling, but next time I’m also going to rub it with cumin and chili powder for a nice crust.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Source: Adapted from Allrecipes

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, seasoned to preference, grilled, and cut into small pieces
1 vidalia onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
2 14.5 oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 4 oz can chopped green chiles
1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
3 cups chicken broth
1 heaping teaspoon cumin
1 heaping teaspoon chili powder
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Avocado, pepperjack cheese, cilantro, and tortilla chips, for garnish

1. In a dutch oven or pot, add a drizzle of olive oil, and heat over medium heat. Add the diced onions, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute.

2. Add the chicken, diced tomatoes, green chiles, tomato sauce, and chicken broth to the pot. Season with the cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for 30+ minutes.

3. Ladle the soup into bowls, and top with cubed avocado, cubed pepperjack cheese, chopped cilantro, and a sprinkle of black pepper. Serve with tortilla chips.