Butternut Squash Soup

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I really like making soup, but the weather has been so warm recently that I haven’t been able to bring myself to make any. Last weekend it finally started to cool down (and then quickly warmed up again, but that’s another story), and I was getting over a cold so I decided to make butternut squash soup for the first time. The hardest part about this soup is preparing the squash. You will need a very sharp knife and a good vegetable peeler in order to avoid a huge mess. Also, make sure the squash you pick does not have any cracks or bruises. When I went to buy the squash on a Friday night I was in a hurry and didn’t check the squash. When I got it home I realized there were two big cracks in it so I had to drive back to Gelson’s and attempt to exchange it with another one, which was a bit of a hassle.

Recipe:

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 medium brown onion, diced

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes (the one I used was 3.5 lbs.) – details below

3 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup dry white wine

4-5 cups vegetable stock (or enough to completely cover the squash in the pot)

1 sprig fresh thyme

salt & pepper to taste

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I started off with just peeling the entire squash before cutting it apart. Some tutorials say to cut the squash first and then peel, but peeling was really not that difficult when I used the type of peeler pictured. When peeling the squash, it got super slimy so I held on to it with paper towels.

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Even though I sharpened my knife right before embarking on this endeavor, I found it was super difficult to cut the squash lengthwise without first cutting slices off the top. Once I got it to this state I scooped out the seeds with a spoon, just like you would when carving a pumpkin, and cut the squash into slices, and then cubes.

Once you have prepared the squash, saute the diced onion in the olive oil in a large stock pot until slightly soft (about 2-3 minutes). Then add the cubed squash and minced garlic and continue to saute until the onions are translucent (about another 3-4 minutes). You can add some salt and pepper at this point if desired. Then pour in the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until at least half the liquid has evaporated. Add the thyme enough vegetable stock (or a mixture of stock and water) to completely cover the squash in the stock pot:

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Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered until the squash is fork tender (about 20-25 minutes). Remove the soup from heat and use an immersion blender to blend the soup until you reach the desired texture (remember to remove the thyme sprig before doing this). My soup was a bit thicker than I wanted so I just added a little bit of water until I got the right consistency. At this point, check for seasoning and season with salt and pepper if needed. If your stock was particularly salty you may not have to do much seasoning. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can blend the soup in batches in a regular blender or a food processor, but the immersion blender I have was very inexpensive and is way easier to clean than a regular blender or food processor. If you make soup, smoothies, or sauces on a semi-regular basis it is a good buy. I served my soup with a piece of bread that had been brushed with some olive oil and then toasted, which was very tasty.

Perfect Boysenberry Pie

I apologize for neglecting this blog for so long, but considering the holidays are upon us I thought it best to at least post a few of my favorite recipes for Thanksgiving/Christmas. Boysenberry pie is one such recipe. When I was a child we always seemed to have boysenberries growing in the backyard wherever we lived at the time so boysenberries were omnipresent at our house. If you are considering planting them in your yard, I highly recommend it. They don’t take a ton of maintenance and you should get at least some fruit after about a year. Sadly, boysenberries are in short supply in the autumn/winter so unless you have done a very good job freezing your previous harvests, you may be stuck paying a fortune for fresh berries out of season. I do not recommend using frozen berries you have bought at the super market. Your pie will be very soupy and the fruit may turn to mush. A few years ago I asked my mom for her recipe for boysenberry pie and shockingly she said she had never written one down. She had been pulling from various recipes all these years. I decided I should come up with a recipe that worked every time and actually write it down. If you can’t find boysenberries you can substitute blackberries and I dare anyone to notice. Costco usually has good prices of berries in bulk, and you will need a lot of them. I apologize for the poor photo quality, but I took these photos years ago on a whim.

 

Makes 1-9inch pie | oven temp: 350°F pre-heated; then 450°F

4 – 5 cups Boysenberries, rinsed and drained

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 cup white sugar

2 tbsp. corn starch

¼ cup flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 double pie crust, rolled out (I use the Crisco pie crust recipe and it works great every time. Double the single crust recipe to give you more dough to work with to make rolling out easier)

2 tbsp. butter, for dotting

 

  • Rinse, drain and dry the berries well

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  • In a small bowl combine sugar, corn starch, flour and cinnamon
  • In a large bowl, toss lemon juice with berries
  • Sprinkle sugar and flour mixture over berries and stir to coat
  • Press one of the rolled out pie crusts into a 9 in. pie tin, being careful not to stretch the dough outImage
  • Spoon filling into pie tin lined with pie crust (you should have A LOT of filling. If it seems like you have too much filling then you have done it right. If you only fill the pie with berries up to the edge of the pie tin you will end up with something resembling a berry fritata, and who wants that).
  • Dot top of filling with butter before placing top crust on. Then tuck the pie crust under and crimp the edges in your favorite style so the minimum amount of filling spills out. Make sure to cut vents in the top of your crust. You can do this before putting it on the pie or after using a butter knife. Your pie should look like this at this point, if not larger:
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  • Bake in a 350°F oven for about an hour, or until filling it bubbling, and turn up temperature to 450°F for the last 10 minutes.

Tip: Line edge of crust with foil to prevent burning. Place oven liner in bottom of oven to catch spillage.

Here is the final product:

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Notice how much it shrunk down after baking. As you can see, the crust is a little thin in parts and that was because we tried the “butter” flavored Crisco on this particular pie and it did not go well. I really recommend sticking to a plain vegetable shortening. If you have had a problem with runny or watery pies just bake the pie one day before you plan to serve it. Letting it sit will allow it to thicken. If I make this pie again over the holidays I will take some better photos.

 

 

Let’s have an Oscar party!

I’m not sure who first thought of having a party where the highlight of the evening is watching an award show on television. Maybe years ago people would invite their friends over to gather around the radio with a (stirred!) dry martini, on the edge of their seats to hear if Joan Crawford finally gets that Oscar. Inviting a few friends over and watching all the Academy Awards festivities has become a bit of a tradition for me. Oscar Sunday is the one day a year I don’t feel guilty about being catty about others’ appearances, and, thanks to HDTV, that activity has never been more fun. This year I have decided to mix it up a bit and make Oscar themed food and cocktails for our party. I know it isn’t exactly a quantum leap to have movie themed food for an Oscar party but it just never crossed my mind. In addition to food and drinks, we always have printable ballots and a custom BINGO game to play for prizes, details of which are below. But now, let’s get to the drinks, and the puns.

The Drinks

Skyyfall Martini

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Recipe:

(makes one cocktail)

5 blueberries, plus more for garnish

3 oz. white cranberry juice

1 1/5 oz. Skyy vodka

  1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle five blueberries.
  2. Fill shaker with ice and add cranberry juice and vodka.
  3. Shake vigorously and strain into martini glass.
  4. Garnish with remaining blueberries, if desired.

Mangoes Unchained

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Recipe:

(can be made in large quantities if serving a crowd)

1 part light rum

1 part dark or gold rum

2 1/2 parts mango nectar

1 1/2 part pineapple juice

2 parts orange juice

splash of grenadine (for BLOOD)

mango slices, maraschino cherries, pineapple wedges for garnish (optional, but very tasty)

  1. In a pitcher combine first five ingredients and stir well.
  2. Pour mixture into individual glasses with ice.
  3. Before serving, carefully pour the grenadine onto the top of the juice and rum mixture in each glass. It should sink to the bottom of the glass if you don’t stir it.
  4. Garnish with the fruit and serve.

Note: the grenadine doesn’t add a whole lot of flavor and it used mostly for looks. It can be easily omitted if you are serving a large crowd.

The Food

Here at Would Eat we do not have the budget or free time to create dishes in advance of an event just to photograph them and then throw them away.  For this reason, the planned movie themed foods do not have corresponding photographs, but I will post photos after the party. These are just some menu ideas to get you started if you plan to have an Oscar themed menu as well.

Frankenweenies (Best Animated Feature)

  • Cocktail weenies rolled in puff pastry or Crescent Rolls.

Sally Field Greens (Best Supporting Actress)

  • Chopped salad with cucumber, avocado and carrots.

Robert De Nachos (Best Supporting Actor)

  • You guys know how to make nachos, right?

Beasts of the Southern Mild Salsa (Best Picture)

  • Served with chips, obviously.

Life of Pies (Best Picture)

  • We will have a fruit pie, but making a Life of Chicken Pot Pie would really be going above and beyond here.

Fresh Guacamole (Best Animated Short)

  • I really lucked out here because the name of the film is actually Fresh Guacamole.

Moonpies Kingdom (Best Original Screenplay)

  • Alternate choice: Moonfries Kingdom

Carne Asad-a (Best Live Action Short)

  • I don’t have a recipe for this because you can just pick some already marinated carne asada at almost any supermarket in my neighborhood. Very easy.

L’eggs Miserables (Best Picture)

  • Deviled eggs, get it?

The Games

As I mentioned earlier, we like to make things interesting at the Oscar party by having printable ballots of custom Bingo cards. The prize for whoever picks the most Oscar winners is a fake Oscar statuette I bought at LAX several years ago. The winner is then compelled to bring the prize back the next year. This year the prize for the irst person to get a Bingo is a gift bag filled with movie theater junk food (popcorn, milk duds, etc.). Basically, you can know nothing about movies and still win a prize.

If you need a printable ballot, you can find one here. I know, I am as surprised as you that Blockbuster is still in business in any way, shape or form. There used to be websites that would allow you to create custom bingo cards for free, but they don’t see to be around this year. I made our own cards with phrases such as “Anne Hathaway has tears in her eyes”. If you would like to use our custom Bingo games you can download it here (includes a blank page if you want to make your own Bingo cards): Oscar Bingo Pages. 

Thank you to everyone who helped come up with the Bingo squares and the menu ideas. I hope you all have a successful party!

Hummus

hummus

Ever since I stopped eating dairy, hummus has been my go-to dip for any get-together. I made this hummus for a Super Bowl party and it went over pretty well. There is nothing particularly revolutionary about this recipe, except that I removed the skins from the garbanzo beans before pureeing them. Removing the skins does take some time, but I think it improves the texture a lot. I wear non-latex gloves when I remove the skins because the canning liquid irritates my skin. This is a double batch, but you can easily cut it in half if you aren’t as crazy about hummus as I am (which is very crazy).

2 cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), some canning liquid reserved.

1/2 cup tahini

Juice of 1 1/2 lemons, or to taste

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish

2 garlic cloves, peeled (I should have used 3, now that I think about it)

salt & pepper to taste

paprika for garnish (optional)

  1. Add all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well blended
  2. Add the canning liquid until you reach your desired consistency. I ended up using about 2 ounces.
  3. Serve in a bowl and garnish with a little move olive oil and paprika, if desired.

Sriracha Lime Chicken Wings

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Several months ago I had dinner at the Carthay Circle Restaurant inside Disney’s California Adventure Theme Park and I had the pleasure of eating their Sriracha lime duck wings as an appetizer. These duck wings were by far the best thing I have ever eaten at a theme park, and one of the best things I had tasted in recent memory. The cost of the duck wings were pretty reasonable (around $12 if I remember correctly), but the entrees are pretty expensive, so a trip back is not on the horizon at the moment. I suppose one could just make a reservation and order the duck wings, drink water and eat their free bread. It’s not like they are going to throw us out on the Disneyland streets. To avoid that whole scenario I decided to re-create this recipe at home using the much more available chicken wing in lieu of duck. The waitress at Carthay Circle told me they marinade the duck wings in a melted-butter based mixture, but I have skipped that step. I made these using the buffalo style “party wings” for our Super Bowl party, but you could easily use chicken drumsticks and/or wings. I previously tried to make the sauce using a food processor but it was a huge mess to clean up. I used my immersion blender this time and it was much easier. I have to say these come pretty close to the real thing, but I still recommend eating at Carthay Circle if you have the chance.

Recipe:

Preheat oven to 350F

2 1/2 – 3 lbs. chicken “party wings”

Salt & pepper, to taste

10-12 coriander seeds

1/2 cup Sriracha hot sauce (or to taste)

Juice of 2 1/2 fresh limes, plus 1/2 lime for garnish

3 Tbsp. cilantro, roughly chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 1/2 Tbsp. garlic chili sauce

  1. Line a cookie sheet with foil and arrange the chicken wings skin side up and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, turning once, until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  3. In the meantime, combine the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste to check for seasoning.
  4. Toss the cooked wings with the sauce and serve with lime wedges.

I kept these warm during the party by using the “keep warm” setting on my slow cooker and this made them taste even better. This makes a lot of sauce so you can use it for other things if you want.

Low Calorie Cocktail – Cranberry Pomegranate Cosmo

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Since I plan on gorging myself on chicken wings and guacamole tomorrow while watching the Super Bowl, I thought it would be a good idea to come up with a low calorie drink option that is festive and tasty. I could just drink light beer, I guess, but I really don’t care for light beer in the slightest. Also, there is no rule that says you can’t watch football while drinking something out of a martini glass. I infused some vodka with orange for this martini, but you could use an orange flavored vodka or omit the orange all together. Infusing vodka is so easy there is no reason to buy a flavored vodka if you have the old plain stuff on hand. Once you get into the pepper infused vodkas and all that it is a different story, but if I wanted something akin to pepper spray in my mouth I would go to Downtown LA on May Day (zing!). That was a police brutality joke. Anyway, now for the drink!

Recipe:

1 orange or tangerine slice

1.5 oz Vodka (I used Stoli)

1.5 oz. Diet Cranberry-Pomegranate Juice

generous squeeze of fresh lime juice

lime for garnish (optional)

  1. Pour the vodka in a container with the orange or tangerine slice and, with a lid on,  give it a good shake. Store in the fridge for at least an hour (overnight is better). You can use the martini shaker if you won’t be needing it in the meantime, which is unlikely. It’s the weekend, after all. You can always pour more vodka in if you are planning on making many more drinks. If you are trying to infuse more than 8 oz. of vodka I would use more orange slices.
  2. Fill a martini shaker with ice and add the cran-pomegranate juice, vodka and squeeze of lime.
  3. Shake vigorously and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a lime wedge if desired.

This cocktail is about 100 calories, which isn’t bad at all, and tastes better than some of those pre-packaged cocktails that also claim to be low calorie.  If serving a crowd, you could always use a little more juice and add some club soda to make a nice punch. This drink is not “all natural” or healthy. The diet juice does use an artificial sweetener (Splenda), and I know some people try to avoid artificial sweeteners. Alcoholic drinks are not supposed to be healthy, and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably a snake oil salesman. If you want an alcoholic drink with long term health benefits, drink a glass of red wine 2-3 times a week. I will be posting a few more low calorie options over the next few weeks along with some not-so-low-calorie selections. If you do try this recipe, please let me know if you liked it or not.

Would/Would Not Eat – Snackadium Created by Pillsbury

Let’s pretend we live in a world where food allergies, dietary restrictions and food-related consequences don’t exist. Your only limitations are your personal tastes and ideology.

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A gigantic creation consisting of WHOLE sandwiches, pepperoni pizza slices, Bugles, Chex Mix, Crescent Dogs, fruit roll ups, and other assorted snacks.

Source: Pillsbury (you owe yourself a click through to see the complete recipe.)

Welcome to the first edition of Would/Would Not Eat, where I tell you if I would ever consider eating ridiculous foods and why/why not. The Super Bowl is this weekend, and to celebrate, the good people at Pillsbury have constructed a stadium completly made out of snack foods. Not only would I eat this, if I weren’t actively trying to lose weight I would make one of my own this weekend. Other than the enormous quantity of food, there is nothing overtly vulgar about this creation (sandwiches, pizza, etc.). This version used store bought guacamole which seems a little cheap considering the sheer magnitude of this undertaking. If you are going to bake your own French bread (albeit from refrigerated dough) for sandwiches the least you can do is mash a few real avocados together. Now you don’t have to travel the world to see amazing examples of architecture for you needn’t look further than the snack aisle at your local grocery store.

In case you want to make your own Snackadium, Pillsbury has created a scaled down version for the mere mortal to attempt: DIY Snackadium

What about you? Would you eat this? Discuss in the comments if you are so inclined.

We went to the opening of Cars Land (repost)

(I originally posted this on R2K but no one goes there anymore and it is slightly food related and I needed a post to test everything out on)

On Friday, June 15 we got up at around 5:45am to make our way down to the re-opening of Disney’s California Adventure park that included the grand opening of both Cars Land and Buena Vista St. There were no lines for the tram and the parking structure was relatively empty, so I thought we may get lucky and not encounter a nightmare. I WAS WRONG. Once we got past the bag check area we were greeted with this:

Keep in mind this was at around 7:45 am, a full one hour and fifteen minutes before the park opened. The line just to get in the park basically snaked around the entire entrance plaza between DCA and Disneyland proper. There was a large video screen set up so us plebs could see the grand opening ceremony. There was also a small stage with Chip & Dale dancing around on it (not pictured). They started letting people in well before 9am so we did actually get into the park at the time it opened. HOWEVER, they had the “street” part of Buena Vista St. roped off so everyone had to cram their way in using the sidewalks only.

(a bridge and obscured view of Buena Vista St.)

(A place that sells fruit that no one wanted any part of. “Give me the Churro Cone,” the crowd exclaimed.)

The cast members were handing out these newspapers, of which we took many:

The crowds made it really hard to take photos, but here is one I took later in the day of the opposite side of the street:

I was able to take a photo of the Carthay Circle Theater (read: restaurant & bar) without crowds because of the aforementioned roping off. I cut off every lady in a scooter to take it and this was the best I could do:

We went to the lounge inside later in the day, which was an ok experience, but I will wait to pass judgement until the opening day problems have been worked out, of which there appeared to be many. One of the bartenders was very apologetic about the slow service. I ordered a lemon drop from a bartender that needed to look up how to make one so that should tell you something:

(it was not very tasty)
Here is a photo of inside the lounge. I did not have a tripod so I had to set the camera on the table. It really is that yellow inside though.

We then made our way to the Radiator Springs Racers temporary fastpass distribution point. The fastpass return times were already at 3:00pm and it was only 9:15, so while Bill stood in that line I went into Cars Land alone, to face the horror of The Singularity:

(every person with every weird hat was there)

(when The Singularity comes, even plants will be machines.)

The line for the Radiator Springs Racers was 180 minutes long so I said fuck that noise and re-joined Bill in the fastpass line to get our fastpasses for a 4:25-5:25 return time.

We stopped at the Cozy Cones Motel for some coned food offerings.

The most popular item at the time was the breakfast cone, which ended up being eggs with a large amount of cheese sauce and a lone piece of bacon:

Also on offer was a cone of churro bits with chocolate sauce, ice cream, popcorn, pretzel bits and an alcoholic beverage with pomegranate juice and vodka. I had left the long line for the breakfast cone to go get a smoothie at Schmoozies in Hollywood Town (get it) BUT THEY WERE CLOSED. Luckily Bill saved the day by bringing me a cone of pretzel bits and a soda in a cone souvenir cup:

The pretzels were way better than any other theme park pretzel I have ever had so I recommend them for a nice snack.

Later on we went to Flo’s V8 Cafe:

They sell “carved” meats here such as turkey breast, roast beef, etc. with your choice of sides, which included peas and carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy, baked beans and probably coleslaw? The food looked pretty good actually, but I was there for, you guessed it, drinks. Bill got some special iced tea on offer but I got a glass of pinot noir and a beer that was way too dark for my taste. The inside is very 50s diner style:

The ordering here goes smoother than at other food locations at the park. You are given a laminated menu while in line and a cast member will come up to you and mark your order down on a sheet. Then you take your sheet to the register and pay, then take your receipt to the counter to get your food. The line moves faster because every idiot isn’t at the front asking what comes on the peas and carrots. This restaurant also had a lot of indoor and outdoor seating. Here is a view from the outdoor patio:

They also had their napkins and stuff in this thing, which I thought was cool:

We walked around Cars Land a bit more before it was time to get on the RSR ride. Here is Luigi’s Flying Tires:

and a video of the ride I took:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03yYtBuja9Y

This ride takes forever to get people loaded into the tires on account of everyone wanting to get at least one ball to take with them on the ride. They also sell these hats:

(very stylish)

Throughout the day, the stupid RSR ride kept breaking down for long stretches of time. At one point the line was over 6 hours long, and the single rider line had been closed. We saw the line wrap all the way around to the entrance of Paradise Pier:

I realize that reference means nothing to most of you, so here is a map. The yellow dots are where the line was when we saw it at its longest:

(this still may not mean anything to anyone, but the line was very long)

Due to the ride breaking down all day, we were told that there would still be a one to two hour wait even with a fastpass. It was still over an hour until our designated ride time but we were advised to get in line then to avoid missing our ride time (we had to leave by 5pm). The fastpass line was actually around 30 minutes and when we got to the point where the fastpasses were collected we asked if we could just stay there until our fastpass time to avoid going to the end of the line. The cast member said we could but she also gave us the option of going in the single rider line even though it had been closed some time before. We decided to go with that option and only waited another 20 minutes or so.

The ride was preeetty awesome. The first part is pretty much a dark ride which looks really amazing inside. At the end you do a drag race between your car and another car full of people. Maximum shit talking ensues at this point, which is entertaining to say the least. The drag race is a lot of fun, but not six-hours-in-line fun. It is a similar feeling as being in a really fast car, only you don’t think you are going to crash, so all around a better experience. I will say that when you are up close to scenes such as this:

everything looks less impressive. There is a whole lot of forced prospective on the rock work in Cars Land, so those trees in the background are very fake looking when you drive past them on the ride, but I don’t really care about that kind of stuff. I recommend riding it at least once if the line isn’t outrageous.

IN CONCLUSION: I had a good time, would cars again.