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Butternut Squash and Italian Sausage Soup Three crispy sage leaves, fried in brown butter, float on a sea of an unexpectedly light and creamy soup. When I first read the recipe, I half expected it to be an ordinary butternut squash soup with bits of Italian sausage milling about. Not so! The wonderful flavors of the sweet Italian sausage beautifully complement the delicate flavors of the butternut squash and fresh herbs. Pureeing the soup first in a blender and then straining it with a sieve creates a smooth and silky texture. This savory soup transforms fall meals from ordinary into extraordinary.

Butternut Squash and Italian Sausage Soup
Emeril Lagasse

INGREDIENTS
1 large butternut squash, about 3 pounds, halved, seeds removed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus 12 whole leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram
6 cups light chicken stock or broth
1 teaspoon cider vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream, or more to taste
2 tablespoons butter

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Lightly coat the squash halves with 1 teaspoon of the vegetable oil. Season the inside with salt and pepper and place cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until very tender, about 45 minutes. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and reserve. Discard the peel.

3. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the remaining vegetable oil and, when hot but not smoking, add the sausage. Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes.

4. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until the onions are wilted and starting to caramelize, about 6 minutes.

5. Add the garlic, sage and marjoram, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

6. Add the cooked squash and chicken stock, stir well to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7. With a hand-held immersion blender, or in batches in a food processor or blender, puree the soup. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean saucepan.

8. Add the cider vinegar and stir to combine. Add the cream and adjust seasoning, to taste.

9. In a small sauté pan, cook the butter over medium-high heat until it begins to turn brown around the edges. Add the whole sage leaves and cook until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the leaves to paper towels to drain.

10. Serve the soup in bowls, garnished with the crispy sage leaves.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. Make sure to bake the squash on a baking sheet with a rim, because as the squash bakes, it releases juice.

2. I used two links of Italian sausage. To make sure I was using the correct amount, I weighed them. Two links of the brand that I used weighed 8.25 ounces.

3. The next time I make this soup for my family, I might not go through the added work of straining the soup after running it through the blender. They won’t care if the soup is extra smooth or not. If I were making the soup for friends and had the time, I would probably go ahead and strain the soup.

Enjoy!

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Citrus Gazpacho A trip to the American Southwest and blistering hot days prompt me to explore the world of chilled soups. After eating at Cafe Pasqual’s, a James Beard America’s Regional Cooking Classics award winner, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I left a few pounds heavier. Not only did I eat every bit of food that was placed before me, I also toted home two of Cafe Pasqual’s cookbooks in my suitcase. In one of the books, Chef Katharine Kagel shares a much-requested recipe for a refreshing citrus-flavored gazpacho.

Citrus Gazpacho
Recipe from Cooking with Cafe Pasqual’s

INGREDIENTS
4 large ripe tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2½ cups freshly squeezed orange juice
Zest and fruit of 1 orange
Zest of 1/2 and fruit of 1 pink grapefruit
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
1/4 medium red onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. Fill a large saucepan with enough water to cover the tomatoes. Place over high heat and bring to a full boil. While the water is heating, use the tip of a sharp paring knife to score a small X on the bottom of each tomato, just piercing the skin.

2. Put the tomatoes into the boiling water for 20 seconds. Use tongs to transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl filled with ice and water. (This will stop further cooking.) Allow the tomatoes to cool for a few minutes, remove them from the water, and peel their skins with either a paring knife or your fingers, starting at the scored end. Discard the peel.

3. Core and dice one tomato and reserve it. Slice the other tomatoes in half crosswise, and squeeze out the seeds. Remove the cores. Put the tomatoes into the container of a blender.

4. Place the garlic, vinegar, orange juice, and orange and grapefruit zests into the blender with the tomatoes and whirl. Transfer the puree to a serving pitcher or a serving bowl and add the cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, and olive oil.

5. To prepare the fruit, use a paring knife on a cutting board to cut off both ends of the grapefruit and orange so that the fruit can securely stand on end for cutting. Starting from the top of the citrus, slice off all the peel and pith, following the contour. All the fruit will now be exposed. Cradle the fruit in the palm of your hand you aren’t using for slicing, and use the paring knife to cut loose each fruit segment from the inner side of the membrane. Angle the long side of the blade between the fruit and the membrane toward the center of each segment, cutting in a V configuration. No membrane should be attached to the fruit segments.

6. Add the fruit segments to the gazpacho mixture and stir.

7. Add the salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.

8. Chill well before serving.

Makes 6 cups

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I couldn’t find pink grapefruit at my local market, so I used a red grapefruit instead.
2. The recipe didn’t indicate when to add the reserved diced tomatoes, so I added them in with the cucumbers, bell pepper, and red onions.
3. I added 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
4. Chef Kagel notes in her recipe, “The trick to this recipe is to cut all the diced ingredients into uniform dimensions.”

Enjoy!

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split pea and spinach soup

A sip of hearty soup and a bite of freshly baked cornbread takes the chill out of a chilly evening. But better than that, when this thick and flavorful soup is paired up with cornbread, which is a complimentary protein, a complete protein is formed. How comforting to know that the comfort food you’re eating is not only delicious, but good for you, too!

Split Pea and Spinach Soup
Recipe from Linnell’s old recipe box, original source unknown

Ingredients:
2 cups chopped onions (about 2 large ones)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 lb. or 2 cups yellow or green split peas, picked over and rinsed
2 quarts water
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven and add onions. Sauté the onions (and the pork, if using*) in oil until tender.
2. Add peas, water, bay leaves, and basil.
3. Cover and simmer for approximately one hour or until the peas are tender.
4. Add the spinach, cover, and simmer, while stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes longer.
5. Season with salt, pepper, and cloves.
6. Serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese and a crusty loaf of pumpernickel bread.

Serves 4 or makes 10 cups.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. *I add either diced salt pork, ham, or 2 smoked ham hocks for additional flavor. Obviously if you’d like to make this a vegetarian soup, you will omit the meat.
2. Taste soup before adding the salt, especially if you’re adding a cured meat.
3. As the recipe suggests, pumpernickel bread is a good accompaniment, but my family would revolt if I did not serve this with cornbread.

ENJOY!

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Mud puddles, computer tantrums, and an irritating left eye – because of these things, my day did not turn out as planned. My gardener found, not one, but five broken irrigation lines in my front yard. As soon as we repaired one and the water pressure returned, another bubbling puddle would form somewhere else. Little did my gardener know that under the soil in this particular flower bed lay a complicated network of irrigation tubing that only my husband, the “Mad Scientist” of irrigation, could create. While I was outside with the gardener, my left eye started to ache. “Aargh,” I moaned. Having an unusual eye condition, I went inside the house to put eye drops in to soothe my cranky eye. Leaving the gardener outside to play in the mud and with one eye shut, I decided to work on a computer project. Alerts and message windows popped up constantly – my computer did not want to cooperate with the printer. “What now?” I asked it. “Can’t we all just get along?”

To make a long story short, my day fell apart and by dinnertime I was in no mood to cook. I remembered this quick and easy recipe for black bean soup and whipped it up in about 15 minutes. Toppings of cilantro, green onions, cheese, and sour cream added fresh flavors to the soup. And a chunk of fresh artisan bread and a hearty green salad rounded out the meal. Although my day fell apart, the evening began with a great dinner.

Instant Black Bean Soup

Recipe from Cooking Light

Ingredients:
2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt added black beans, undrained
1/2 cup bottled salsa
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 (16-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup (2-ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
5 tablespoons low-fat sour cream
5 tablespoons minced green onion
2½ tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

Directions:
1. Place beans and liquid in a medium saucepan; partially mash beans with a potato masher.
2. Place over high heat; stir in salsa, chili powder, and broth. Bring to a boil.
3. Ladle soup into bowls; top with cheese, sour cream, onions, and cilantro.

Yields 5 servings

Linnell’s Notes:
1. I didn’t have any cans of no-salt-added black beans, so I used regular cans of black beans. Because of this, no added salt was needed.

2. The toppings really add to the flavor of the soup, so don’t omit them. I only had shredded Monterey Jack cheese at home, but it worked out well.

Enjoy!

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Sometimes it pays to save old magazines. From an old Sunset Magazine, dated February 1997, comes this quick to make Red Pepper-Tomato Soup that’s perfect for a cold and wet Valentine’s Day. Many aspects of this recipe make it appealing. First, it is low in calories, fat, and carbohydrates. The amount of cholesterol is negligible, especially if you use vegetable stock and do not add any cream garnish. It’s a smooth and thick soup, much like a cream-based soup, but happily without the cream. Second, this recipe requires few ingredients and most of the ingredients are pantry staples. Third, both the red peppers and tomatoes are good sources of lycopene. According to Livestrong.com, Lycopene is an antioxidant molecule found in red-colored fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes. A number of studies have shown that diets rich in tomato products can lower the incidence of several cancers as well as heart disease, possibly due to their high lycopene content. The chemical structure of lycopene gives it a number of antioxidant properties that may in theory help prevent cellular damage and fight off some of the effects of aging and chronic disease.

Show your special someone how much you care by serving them this attractive, heart-healthy, red soup. It’s up to you whether or not you want to add the cream garnish, but you’ll really want the heart-shaped croutons to soak up all that hearty goodness!

Red Pepper-Tomato Soup
Recipe from Laura Sabo for Sunset Magazine

Ingredients:
2 or 3 slices French Bread, each about 1/2-inch thick
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup (about 1-1/2 oz.) chopped shallots
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup canned peeled roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained
1 can (16 oz.) tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream or whipping cream (optional)

Directions:
1. With a heart-shaped cookie cutter or a knife, cut heart shapes (3 inches wide or smaller) out of bread. Lay croutons on a baking sheet and brush tops with about 2 teaspoons oil. Sprinkle evenly with 1/4 teaspoon basil. Bake in 350 degree oven
until golden and crisp, about 15 minutes for a 3-inch-wide heart.

2. Meanwhile, in a 2 or 3-quart pan, cook shallots, stirring often, in remaining 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat until shallots are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add broth, red peppers, tomatoes and their juice, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon basil. Bring to a boil over high heat; cover and simmer over low heat 5 to 10 minutes.

3. With slotted spoon, ladle peppers, tomatoes, and shallots into a blender or food processor; whirl until smooth. Return puree to pan; stir into liquid. Add salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Ladle soup into bowls. Spoon dollops of sour cream decoratively over soup; swirl with the tip of a knife through sour cream. Immediately before serving, set heart-shaped croutons on top.

Makes 4 cups (2-3 servings)

Linnell’s Notes:
1. I used a 12-ounce jar of roasted red peppers. After rinsing and draining, the amount of red peppers came to just a tad over one cup.

2. Although the recipe called for a 16-ounce can of tomatoes, I only had a 28-ounce can available. I threw the whole amount into the pot figuring it couldn’t hurt – plus what was I going to do with the few remaining canned tomatoes?

3. I started with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and found that was enough for my low-sodium taste buds. I added about 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of sugar – this amount will depend on the sweetness of the tomatoes you are using.

4. The dollops of sour cream sank to the bottom of the bowl, so I used heavy cream instead and dragged a toothpick through them to create the “almost” heart-shaped swirls.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Are you feeling like you overate yesterday? Holiday meals have a way of making us eat twice as much food as usual. That’s exactly how I’m feeling, so tonight I’m yearning for something hearty, yet healthy. I decided to try making California Pizza Kitchen’s Dakota Smashed Pea and Barley Soup. The thick texture and savory flavor of this soup are reasons why I order this soup whenever I dine at CPK restaurants during the cooler months.

While quickly reading through the recipe, my eyes did a double-take when it came to an ingredient listing that read “3 tablespoons of salt.” Wow, that’s a lot of salt! According to an article on salt in the current edition of Nutrition Action, the health letter published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, by cutting 1,200 milligrams of salt a day out of the average American’s diet, we “Could prevent up to 92,000 deaths and 66,000 strokes every year. It could keep up to 99,000 Americans from having a heart attack and up to 120,000 others from getting heart disease every year. And it could save $10 to $24 billion in health care costs every year.”

The article lists the sodium levels of favorite menu items at popular restaurants. Lists like these are good for us to read because of the shock value associated with learning that some of our favorite “healthy” foods are really laden with sodium. According to CPK’s website a bowl of Dakota Smashed Pea and Barley Soup has 368 calories, 26 grams of fiber, and 0 grams of saturated fat. That’s not too bad. Here’s the kicker, though, it has 2100 milligrams of sodium! Another CPK favorite Miso Salad – has a whopping 2654 milligrams of sodium for a full serving and 1346 milligrams for a half serving! Recommended sodium levels for most people are less than 1,500 milgrams per day!

When trying the Dakota Smashed Pea and Barley Soup recipe at home, I attempted to eliminate some of the sodium by enhancing the flavor as much as possible by using the freshest and most flavorful ingredients possible. I used organic carrots (the leaves still attached), thyme from my herb garden, and in lieu of water I used two cartons of low sodium organic vegetable broth. I went with the low sodium broth because I figured I could always add salt as needed, but couldn’t take it away once it’s been put in the pot! I also added more onion, celery, and cumin than was called for in the recipe.

Here’s my adaptation of CPK’s Dakota Smashed Pea and Barley Soup:

1 pound dried organic split peas, sorted and rinsed
1/2 cup organic pearl barley
2 quarts low-sodium vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 tablespoon dried)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon rubbed dried sage
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1-1/2 cups diced organic carrots
3/4 cup minced onion
2/3 cup diced celery
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

In a large pot combine the split peas, barley, broth, bay leaves, salt, soy sauce, thyme, garlic, sage, and cumin. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer, cover, and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the carrots, onion, and celery. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 – 40 minutes more. Discard bay leaves.

If you do not like your soup chunky, you can remove a third of it and puree small batches of it in a blender and then add it back to the soup pot or you can use an immersion blender to puree some of it while it’s still in the pot.

Ladle into warmed soup bowls and garnish with green onions.

Makes 6-8 servings

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