Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Copycat Panera Bread Autumn Squash Soup

I just made plans with a good friend to meet for lunch at Panera Bread; her next statement was, "I hope they still have the Autumn Squash Soup!"  I asked if it were good, she couldn't believe I hadn't heard about it. Well, I had missed this.  I used to frequent Panera on in-service days, but gave up the extended lunch  to catch up on my work.  The next thing I knew as I was scrolling through social media I saw a video of someone trying to make a copycat version.

I took this as a sign to find a recipe and try to make it. A quick search uncovered 10 such recipes.  I looked through them for similarities and differences. Some used red peppers; some didn't; some used apple juice; some used apple cider.  I mixed up the recipes to fit what I had at home as I was waiting for the furnace technician to come.  The spices and honey make a huge difference in flavor so don't skip them (I tried prior to adding them because I was cold).

The result was an amazing soup!  It was perfect for lunch on that cold, rainy October day. My husband enjoyed it as well...he can be picky about how I prepare squash.  This is defiantly worth the peeling and cutting of the butternut squash; if you are pressed for time, you can get your squash peeled and cubed already in the produce section of many grocery stores. 

  • butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks.
  • onion, diced
  • red pepper
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider
  • 15 oz canned pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 T honey
  • 1/4 t curry powder
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • pumpkin seeds, for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  2. Peel and seed squash.  Cut into chunks. Peel and dice onion.  Dice red pepper.
  3. Place squash, onion, red pepper on a baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle with 1 T olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes.
  4. Puree roasted veggies in blender.  (I use a Vitamix)
  5. In a large soup pot, combine squash puree, pumpkin, vegetable broth, and apple cider.  Bring to a low boil.
  6. Whisk in cream.  Bring back to boil.
  7. Add honey and spices. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. 
  8. Garnish with pumpkin seeds. 

The salad and half sandwich make me feel like I am at Panera! 

TIME: 30 minutes prep (lots of veggies to cut and roast); 45 minutes cooking time
SOURCE: a hodgepodge of internet recipes 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Butternut Squash Casserole

It's time for the "parade of squash" as my husband calls it.  Fall is when my CSA pick-ups are filled with squash of different shapes, sizes, and colors.  I love squash and all its nutritional benefits. Filled with Vitamin A, B6, and C, as well as fiber and potassium, butternut squash provides a healthy punch in a small package.

I usually make soup from the butternut squash, but I wanted to try something different. This creamy casserole appeared to be a great side for  a big holiday feast.  After trying it, I know it will be a great sweet addition to our Thanksgiving table in the same way that the baked pineapple has become a Christmas staple.

The original recipe I found recommended peeling and cubing the squash; then, boiling it for about 15 minutes.  I don't have time to cube that squash so I'll be halving it and roasting it with a bit of water until it's tender. Roasting will take longer, but I can do other work as it bakes.  Additionally, I cut the sugar amount from 1/2 cup since I know how sweet butternut squash can be.  Another option would be to trade sugar for maple syrup to change the flavor.
A few other recipes included toppings of Rice Krispies mixed with butter or Nilla Wafers mixed with butter and browned to add a finished look for the table. When I reheated too long in the microwave (oops!), I added some applesauce which was delicious too.


  • 1 large butternut squash, roasted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t cinnamon, ground
  • 1/4 t nutmeg, ground
  • 1 cup pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a 1 1/2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Scoop inside of roasted squash.
  3. Add to bowl, beat.
  4. Add other ingredients.  Mix well.
  5. Place in prepared dish. Bake for 35 minutes. 
Yum-reheating in the microwave with some apple sauce was awesome!

TIME: 45 minutes prep (includes roasting), 35 minutes baking time
SOURCE: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/creamy-butternut-squash-casserole

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Jiffy Hands Pear Bread

In my real life, I teach second graders.  The first day of fall means a whole new set of books on display in my classroom.  Without hesitation, I will read Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears by Cynthia Rylant. I love Mr. Putter, his fine cat Tabby, busy Mrs. Teaberry, and Zeke the dog! When my children are through with Mr. Putter, I will have to find a way to continue reading them to anyone who will listen.

The Pick the Pears book finds Mr. Putter unable to pick pears because of some "cranky knees," but he does have some "jiffy hands" to get rid of the pears littering the ground. The book ends with Mr. Putter being surprised by wonderful, fall baked goods.

As I picked up my CSA box with 4 not-so-ripe looking pears, I thought, "What can I do with these overripe pears?"  A quick Google search of those exact words showed me tons of ideas, but the bread seemed best for our family.  It will be a great treat as we enjoyed reading and listening to the adventures of Mr. Putter.

Those pears have seen better days!

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  •  1 t salt
  • 1 T ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 pears
  • 1 t vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. 
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in large mixing bowl. Mix well.
  3. Peel and core the pears.  Grate them. Set aside.
  4. Combine butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and pears.  Mix well.
  5. Add pear mixture to dry mixture.  Combine well.  Add nuts. Mix.
  6. Bake for 60 - 70 minutes; until a toothpick come out clean.
  7. Cool bread on wire rack. 

TIME: 20 minute prep time; 60 minutes baking time
SOURCE: My search led me here: http://www.thekitchn.com/falls-other-fruit-8-things-to-131549

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sausage, Egg, and Potato Breakfast Casserole

As I prepare to leave for a camping trip with my family to one of our many amazing National Parks, I find myself turning to this recipe for the third time.  We travel in our RV and though there are generally no hook ups (for electricity, water, etc.) at the National Park campgrounds, we do have a gas oven that we can use.  I have made this recipe for two other trips and it has been the perfect breakfast to fill us up for the adventures of the day.  There are three steps to the process: the prep, the baking with foil, and the baking without foil.  I do the first two of those steps at home before we leave.  This leaves just the baking without foil to do on the trip.  Unfortunately, I have never taken a picture of the finished product on one of our trips.  Maybe this time I will and post an update.  In the meantime, I didn't want any more time to go by without posting this!


  • 1 pound Italian sausage (sweet, hot, or mild)
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and diced (or 1 jar of roasted red peppers, drained and diced)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 (20 ounce) bag frozen hash browns, thawed
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • (optional topping: thinly sliced green onions)

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Add the sausage to a medium saute pan. Cook over medium-high heat until browned, crumbling the sausage with a spoon as it cooks. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Reserve about 1 tablespoon of sausage grease in the saute pan, discarding the rest. 
  3. Add the onion and red pepper* to the saute pan, and saute for 5 minutes until cooked. Add the garlic and saute for an additional 2 minutes until fragrant. (*If using the jarred roasted red peppers, wait to stir them until after the garlic.) 
  4. Pour the vegetable mixture into the mixing bowl with the sausage. Add the hash browns and 1 1/2 cups cheese to the mixing bowl with the sausage and veggies. Stir to combine.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and black pepper until combined. Then add them to the hashbrown mixture, and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a 11x7-inch or a 9x9-inch baking dish (a 9x13-inch dish will also work), and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.
  6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Then remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes and the top of the potatoes begin to slightly brown. Remove and let the casserole rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions and serve!
Difficulty: Medium
Time: 20 minutes prep, 35 minutes baking

Friday, June 16, 2017

Thin Mint Smoothie

You know those subscriptions services that you can subscribe to where you pay a fee and then you get a box filled with goodies (like clothes or pet supplies or beauty items) delivered to your door? They are all over the place these days.  You can even order a "man box" to be delivered to a favorite man in your life.  There is something exciting about getting that box filled with who-knows-what that someone else put together for you.  That is exactly what getting my CSA is like for me!  I get a bag filled with the best fruits and veggies around, along with recipes to try.  This week was my first pick-up and I was thrilled!

One of the reasons I like the CSA is also one of the reasons I liked the clothing box service that I tried once - it pushed me out of my comfort zone.  I would not have bought that sweater, but I loved it once I had it on!  Likewise, I would not have bought mint or scapes this week, but goodness gracious am I glad they were in my CSA.  This shake that I made with the mint is incredible...just what I needed on a hot summer day.  My daughter had a friend over and when I shared with the three kids, she told me I should give her mom the recipe. (I didn't bother telling her how healthy it is.) Win!!

(P.S. Don't know what a CSA is? Here is a link to try: What is a CSA?)

  • 1.5 oz spinach
  • 1 banana
  • 1 apple
  • 3-5 sprigs fresh mint - stemmed
  • 1 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 tsp cacao nibs (I couldn't find any at my grocery store, so I used dark chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup ice

Blend all ingredients except for the cacao nibs for 1-3 minutes.  Add the cacao nibs and blend for 30 seconds more.

Difficulty: easy
Time: 4 minutes
Source: https://greenblender.com/smoothies/recipes/thin-mint

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pesto Chicken and Veggies

A friend of mine recently posted this recipe on Facebook and I have since made it a few times to great reviews from my family.  Though the original recipe touts its advantages as a make ahead meal to prep for the week (my friend posted it with Whole 30 in mind), I found it makes for a perfect weeknight dinner for my family with just enough left over for lunch the next day.  It is quick and easy and full of flavor.  If you are cutting grains from your diet, this dish stands alone.  Personally, to stretch the meal a bit (and because we are not eliminating grains), I served it with brown rice.  Just thinking of the flavor combination with the homemade pesto is making my mouth water as I type.  I am sure you will enjoy this one!

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless (I used more than 4)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound green beans
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup basil pesto
  1. Microwave green beans with a tablespoon of water for 6 minutes. (Skip this step if you like your green beans crisp.  My family does not.)
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat olive oil and add chicken thighs. Season with salt and pepper. When the chicken is completely cooked through, remove from pan, slice into strips, and set aside.
  3. Add veggies and pesto; heat until tomatoes and green beans are cooked to desired tenderness. Return the chicken strips to the pan. Stir until fully incorporated.  
  4. Serve immediately or divide into 4 food storage containers and store in the refrigerator. Can be kept refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: about 20 minutes
Source: adapted from recipes seen on Facebook and Buzzfeed

Friday, January 6, 2017

Hoppin' John Soup

There are so many different traditions related to food on New Year's Day. In the area where we live, a common tradition is to have pork and sauerkraut for luck. This year, while perusing recipes online, I stumbled across a recipe for Hoppin' John soup, which is also supposed to be a lucky dish to eat on the first day of the New Year, but tends to be more of a southern tradition. I decided to give it a try as something different.  I have to admit that while it did look good, I was not anticipating it being a huge hit. Let me tell you, it was.  And I hope that this soup isn't meant to be eaten only on New Year's Day, because I plan to make it all year long.  I don't know that I have ever cooked anything with Black Eyed Peas (which are actually beans, not peas, so you can eat them, Dad, despite the fact that you won't go near green peas with a ten foot pole) and my experience with Collard Greens is very limited, but the flavor combination in this soup had my whole family going back for more.  As for the luck it is supposed to bring, so far so good!  Happy New Year, all!


  • 1 small bunch (about 1 pound) collard greens
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces smoked ham steak, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped (I used a handful of baby carrots because I was out of whole)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • One 15 1/2-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (I used a packet)
  • Dash of hot sauce, preferably Tabasco
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Parmesan cheese, grated, for topping 

  1. Remove the stems and center ribs from the collard greens. Stack about six leaves on top of each other, roll into a cigar shape, and slice into thin ribbons. 
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, toss in the ham, onion, garlic, carrot, and celery, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, roughly 4 minutes. Sprinkle in the red-pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper. Add the collard greens, and sauté until they begin to soften. 
  3. Pour in the chicken broth, the bay leaf, the black-eyed peas, and the can of tomatoes with their juices. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. Stir the rice into the soup to warm. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. 
  4. Spoon into bowls, and sprinkle each bowl with Parmesan cheese. 
I wish this picture did it justice!

Difficulty: easy
Time: 15 minutes prep, about 40 minutes cooking
Source: adapted from www.tastebook.com