New Flavors + Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

Lately, I have been longing for new flavors. We consider ourselves to be fairly adventurous eaters. We like raw oysters, curry, cilantro, rare steak. My husband doesn't turn his nose up to meatless meals. But oh man have I been in a rut with my cooking! I've been desperate for inspiration.

I mentioned in another blog post that I read this book, Dinner a Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach. Everyone of her recipes intrigued me. They are just adventurous enough for my cooking/eating style without being too intimidating. Last night I made her butternut squash soup. I loved it. Both of my children enjoyed it too. Capt. Steve was out with some friends, so he did not partake. But I'm calling this one a keeper.

Recipe adapted from Jenny Rosenstrach

1 onion
olive oil
fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon curry powder
pinch of cayenne pepper

1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped (I used pre-cut Costco squash to save time)
2 apples, peeled cored and chopped

chicken broth

Chop onion and brown in olive oil. Add thyme, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and curry to taste. (Note: The original recipe calls for a tablespoon of curry. That was too much for my taste so I opted for a teaspoon. My advice is go easy on the spices. You can always add more at the end.)

Add cut up squash and apple to pot. Cover with chicken broth. Bring to a boil for 30ish minutes. Puree' soup with immersion blender or regular blender. Add broth to bring to desired consistency.

Top with sour cream or goat cheese crumbles. 

Serve with some yummy bread for dipping


Beans and Rice 101

One of our favorite meals is beans and rice. It has been my "go to" meal for years, along with spaghetti. It's warm, hearty, nutritious, versatile, and cheap. I make a big ol crock pot full almost every weekend I work. This way I can come home to a warm meal and Stephen is not left desperate for food options when I'm gone.

Today I share the basics of beans and rice. There is so much flexibility with this dish. It's hard to mess this meal up, I promise. For this batch pictured here, I just used up ingredients that were in my freezer and fridge. I always keep a stock of dried beans.

Ingredients (not an exact recipe, most ingredients can be added to suit your taste)
1 package of dried beans (red, navy, or great northern)
diced onions and peppers (about a cup of each)
meat for flavor (bacon, sausage, ham, or all three) This time I used sausage and ham.
water (several cups)
spice (I personally like Tony Chachere's or any Cajun seasoning)
herbs (dried parsley)
minced garlic (optional, but I usually throw some in there)
serve over cooked rice

I start by "throwing in the crock pot" 1 package of dried beans, about a cup of diced onions (white and green) and a cup of diced peppers (bell peppers or sweet peppers). Then meat - sometimes I use ham, sometimes diced up raw bacon, and sometimes sausage.

Next I fill the crock pot to the top with water and set it on low for 6 hours. About half way through I add a tablespoonful (or more) of Cajun seasoning and a small handful of dried parsley.

Serve with some yummy bread from the bakery for dipping.

If you are looking for a more exact recipe here are a couple of good ones to try.

Cajun White Beans
New Orleans Red Beans and Rice

This meal never disappoints.


Hot Onion Dip

This dip is so warm and yummy. It's easy to make, and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. Enjoy!

1-2 large onions diced
12 oz cream cheese softend
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mayonaise

mix all ingredients
pour in pie dish 
bake on 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until browned on edges
serve with tortilla chips, Fritos or Triskets


Stocking Spree

Did any of you see PW's post about letting her food supply dwindle down and then stocking up again?

I really enjoyed that post because I am/was coincidentally in the process of doing the very same thing. A couple of weeks ago when Stephen Small was staying the week at my parents' house, I did not darken the door of a grocery store. We ate what we had. The low point was when Stephen Grande came home one day for lunch and the most appealing meal was a plain hamburger patty (no bun) and some crumbly tortilla chips.

It was worth making do because I cleaned out my fridge! I wiped it down and scrubbed all the shelves. I did the same for the pantry.

Then we went out to dinner and left town early the next morning. 

When we got back in town I decided to go on a stocking spree. We were out of so many basic things like oatmeal, pasta, canned tomatoes. And since this month is cut short for us by two family trips, I decided that this was a good time to devote a large portion of our budget to staple items and groceries in bulk to go towards meals I have in mind. 

I bought my first round of groceries from Costco and did the remainder of my stocking spree at Winn Dixie because of some great sales. Y'all know I'm really Publix gal for my day to day shopping.

Here's some of what I bought.

Different size tortillas for tacos and fajitas.
Dried beans for beans and rice.
A half a ham, cheese, and buns for freezer ham sandwiches.
Pie crusts for quiche and apple pie.
Frozen peas for pasta and peas.
Beans, Rotel, and canned soup for Lollie bean.
Creamed corn for Mexican corn bread.
Frozen broccoli for broccoli cheddar soup.
Huge bag of Mexican shredded cheese for all cheese related needs.

When choosing particular items I made sure I had a recipe in mind for the near future. I really stuck to my list.

This whole method is really straying from my norm of once a week meal planning and grocery shopping. But given that September is a crazy month with traveling and the start up of school and church activities, it seemed like a good time to stock up and loosely plan for the whole month.

I have $106 left to spend on groceries for the month of September. But it should be plenty considering all the food I have in the house. I plan to use the remaining funds for milk, bread, fruit, vegetables, Parmesan cheese, dishwasher detergent, and toothpaste.


What I buy at Costco

In the comments someone asked what I buy at Costco and I thought it would make for a good post.

I was extremely reluctant to join a big box store. For one, the store itself overwhelmed me. The thought of buying such large amounts of a product overwhelmed me too. I went several times just to look around before I actually joined. And then I went and bought some stuff with my sister just to see how those items would play out in my kitchen.

I eased in to this decision. And now, after several months of shopping at Costco I can honestly say I'm thrilled with the store. We have the exact same grocery budget that we had previous to joining, but I feel like we have more food. Also their are certain products that I'm able to afford there that I feel are way out of my price range at the regular grocery store i.e. good cheese.

I have friends with no children who shop at Costco and love it. But I feel it's only been practical since we have 4 mouths to feed and can throw back a 1/2 gallon of milk in less than 12 hours. I guess it just depends on who you are and what you buy.

Here is a list of what I buy regularly.

sour cream
all kinds of cheese

ground beef
pork tenderloin
sandwich meat (turkey, ham)

frozen berries for smoothies
frozen vegetables for stir fry
frozen wild Alaskan salmon

sandwich bread
English muffins
hamburger buns

tortilla chips

olive oil
marinara sauce
canned tomatoes
tomato paste

chocolate chips
cocoa powder

all kinds of nuts

juice boxes for school lunches
golf fish crackers

peanut butter
strawberry preserves

bell peppers


laundry detergent
toilet paper
dry swiffers
zip lock backs
aluminum pans
trash bags

contact solution
advil and tylenol (adult and kids)
baby soap

photos! I've started having all my photos developed here. Excellent quality. Get the lustre finish.

That list sums it up. But I'm always trying new things. We have bought some clothes there on occasion and have been very happy with them. As for fresh produce I try to have a specific plan for it before I buy it because of the large amounts it comes in.

Happy shopping!
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