Life’s busy. There is always time for cooking, though – and it’s a special day when we can share a good, simple recipe (or two) with friends.
Since kiddo number three (almost three months old) was born, I’ve gone back to my staples for meals: a big salad with a nice protein and fresh bread; a big bowl of roasted vegetables with some fantastic cheeses on the side; there is always some wine and dark chocolate to make the day special (obviously). Simple, high-quality foods and a bit of grape juice is my Mama Mantra.
My husband and two toddlers aren’t always in the mood for a huge salad or a hunk of Manchego, so I prepare a big pot of this or that every few days. Maybe a hearty chili or stew, or in this case, a delicious, vegetable-rich soup. The deep orange, clean-tasting roasted red pepper, pear and squash soup is velvety and smooth.
There are plenty of pears and winter squash available at the farmers’ markets and our local Co-Op, so it’s a seasonal and inexpensive dish to make. Feel free to play around with the flavor profile and even the fruit and winter squash varieties to highlight what’s seasonal in your region.
Of course, gluten-free, dairy-free (yet oh-so decadent) dark chocolate tahini truffles are a dessert every member of our family (well, maybe not the newborn) has gone crazy for! So small, yet so addicting. We whip up a batch of these babies pretty much every week.
Each preparation is an opportunity to experiment with new flavor combinations and varying textures. Be your own chocolatier with this recipe and create your own perfect taste. Play with the toppings and the add-ins to the truffles batter.
Of course, a glass of red wine is a non-negotiable, essential pairing to the creamy, sweet and slightly salty treat. It’s five-o’clock somewhere!
What are your go-to meal after a long day? Do you have a favorite evening sweet treat? Are there any new family favorites? I’d love to hear what’s making repeated appearances at your scrumptious table.
Roasted Red Pepper, Pear and Squash Soup
Adapted from Southern Living
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 carrots, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped, or more if you love garlic
4 whole roasted red peppers, chopped
4 Anjou pears, diced
3 1/2 cups puréed winter squash, such as pumpkin or butternut squash, fresh or using two whole store-bought, 15 ounce cans
3 cups cooked spaghetti squash
8 cups chicken stock, more if needed
1/2 cup uncooked lentils
salt and pepper, to taste
herbes de Provence, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 1/2 cup “Greek style” yogurt, or more, depending on the level of tartness desired
Optional Garnishes: Freshly chopped parsley, julienned pear, roasted winter squash seeds, Bucherondin chévre
Melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a large stock pot. Sauté the carrots, onion and celery until tender, about eight minutes. Add the chopped garlic and sauté a couple of minutes more, just until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the roasted red peppers, pears, winter squash, spaghetti squash, chicken stock and lentils. Season with the herbes de Provence, to taste, a teaspoon at a time.
Allow to simmer over low heat for as long as time allows, at least 25 minutes or several hours. Stir occasionally and reduce heat if the soup begins to go beyond a gentle simmer.
Remove the soup from heat and puree using an immersion blender. Or, use a standard blender and puree in batches, using caution, as the soup is hot.
Place the yogurt in a bowl. Slowly whisk in two cups of the soup to temper the yogurt and prevent the soup from breaking. Add the yogurt mixture back to the pot, whisking well. If the soup seems too thick, whisk in additional chicken stock.
Taste the soup and adjust seasonings (salt, pepper, herbes de Provence) as needed. Serve with garnishes, if desired.
Dark Chocolate Tahini Truffles
Adapted from the Wall Street Journal
4 ounces tahini, such as the Whole Foods brand (made in Israel)
8 ounces good quality, 70% dark chocolate, such as Valrhona, chopped
3 Tablespoons goat butter or Earth Balance buttery sticks, very soft
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of fine salt
honey or maple syrup, to taste
Optional add-ins, such as grated ginger and orange zest – or almonds and unsweetened coconut flakes – or spicy red chiles, to taste
Optional toppings of choice, such as toasted sesame seeds, cocoa nibs, sunflower seeds, etc.
Coarse Sea salt, to top truffles, to taste
Place small paper baking cups into miniature cupcake tins.
Beat tahini with an electric mixer on medium speed, along with the goat butter, until completely smooth.
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, stirring with a spatula, until smooth. Add a pinch of salt, espresso and vanilla. You may also gently melt the chocolate in a microwave in 30 second intervals.
Remove chocolate from heat. Fold the tahini mixture into the chocolate 1/3 at a time until completely combined.
Fold in optional add-ins, if using, to taste. Then, using one tablespoon at a time, add enough honey or maple syrup to make the mixture adequately sweet. This will depend on the sweetness of the chocolate.
Pour into baking cups. Top with sea salt and optional toppings, to taste.
Refrigerate until firm, at least an hour. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.
©Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, shannaward.com (2013-2015), unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author, Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, and/or owner is strictly and completely prohibited.