The perfect fall recipe….. in the summer?

If you are like me, you get really frustrated at people who don’t think they can eat certain things because it is “out of season” ummmmm, last time I checked, if the grocery store carried it, I could eat it! The new obsession in my household over the past week has been a roasted squash soup with pork “croutons.” Yes, pork croutons.

So how did I end up making a creamy squash soup in the middle of summer (and mind you, I live in Las Vegas so summer here is HOT)? My fiance and I LOVE roasted squash, we will take an acorn squash, halve it, clean it throw a few tablespoons of butter into the middle of it along with some salt and chili powder throw it in the oven and just let it roast for a while.

The other day, I was going through our kitchen and figuring out what vegetables we had to make soon because they were about to go bad. Sitting on the counter was a large acorn squash. We had just had squash the night before, but I knew that if we waited much longer that we would have to trash the second squash we had bought. One thing I knew my fiance LOVES is soup (let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good soup?). So I figured it would be a good use of the squash and would probably get eaten quickly in our house.

The other upside to making a creamy squash soup, my finace is¬†lactose intolerant, which basically means he can not digest dairy (milk or butter are the main things you have to watch for). Because of his condition he can’t really have creamy soups without having to take pills, powders or drops of some kind. It gets a little annoying and expensive for the medications he needs to be able to eat dairy.

If you look up squash soup recipes, you see a lot of recipes that include a lot of ingredients, including butter and cream, about 10 different herbs and seasonings and it just seemed way over complicated and like it would not highlight the main ingredient, squash. So, being me, I said f*ck the recipes, I am going to make this up as I go! So that is what I did!

First, I said screw using butter or cream! Who needs them? Squash is so creamy on its own if you cook it properly that it seemed ridiculous to add more. So I kept it simple, I sliced up the squash, leaving the skin on put it on a baking sheet with a little olive oil (I didn’t season it at this point) and put it in the oven to roast until it was extremely soft. I then rough chopped some onion and garlic (it is going to be blended so I wasn’t worried about dicing perfect onions and garlic here.) I put those into my soup pot and let them begin to break down and caramelize.

What I like about not using recipes and making my own is that I don’t worry about cooking things exactly like the recipe said, the first time I made the soup I cooked the onions only until translucent, the second time (which happened about 5 seconds before beginning this post!) I cooked them down a lot more for better flavor. I used half an onion, but again being as it is your recipe and your preferences add some more if you like onion more or less if you don’t!

Once my squash, onions and garlic were all cooked to my liking, it was time to blend! If you have a professional grade blender, your life is going to be easy doing this. If you don’t, it’s going to be a stop and go process most likely. I have an okayish blender so I have to stop and go a bit. Depending on how much you are making you may also need to do several batches in the blender and then mix together in a pot. Or you may have a hand blender that would work just as well.

The blending is easy (kind of), I put my squash and onions in first and then I put in a little bit of broth (you can use veggie or chicken but I would avoid beef for this). I start the blend process and slowly add the broth until it is as thin or thick as you want, then just let it blend for a while to really get it creamy (plus no one likes lumpy soup!). Once you have the consistency that you like you can add the herbs or seasoning you like. I like to keep it really simple and just do some salt and pepper and since my fiance LOVES heat in his food, I also do some chili powder or cayenne so that he gets the heat he likes.

Without the addition of butter and cream, a soup that is normally kind of heavy and becomes lighter and the squash is a lot more prevalent without the addition of cream. I like to let mine simmer on the stove

soup pic

Now, squash is kind of sweet and if you are like me, you like balanced flavors. So I like to add a salty element to the meal when I have soup. I like pork croutons! Now, this may sound weird to some of you who have never heard of a pork crouton, but all it is is pork belly that has been cut into about half inch pieces that is rendered and crisped up. You could go the simple route and use bacon, but I prefer the pork belly route because, it’s pork belly, it’s yummy.

Really easy to make, cube up your pork belly to the size you like it. I like to keep it bite size when I pair it with a soup (who wants to use a knife when they are eating soup?). Once you have them cubed, cook it just like you would bacon, add a little salt, a little pepper and then you put it in a skillet in a single layer and let it brown and let the fat render. I think the main thing people do is play with the food they want to sear off, so LEAVE IT ALONE!!!! No, really don’t even touch the pan for about 3-5 minutes.

pork before

 

After 3-5 minutes, check one of the cubes to see if it is browned

pork during

Then just like before, leave it alone and let the other side brown. After another few minutes you can toss the pork belly around a bit so you get the sides browned as well. Once it is fully cooked, put the pork on a paper towel lined plate to drain the excess fat.

pork after

put your soup into a bowl and place your pork croutons in the middle of the soup and Enjoy!!!!

soup done 2

 

Easy Squash Soup and Pork Croutons

Soup:

butternut or acorn squash (these are my favorites, but really you can use almost any squash for this)

chicken or veggie broth (the amount will depend on if you want a thicker or thinner soup)

salt

pepper

cayenne pepper

onion (as much as you like or don’t like)

garlic (again, as much as you like)

 

Cook your veggies down, typically I roast my squash for better flavor, but you can also cut it up small and cook it on the stove top. caramelize your onions and garlic. Put squash, onions, garlic in blender with a little bit of broth and start the blender, slowly add broth until blended smooth and you reach the consistency that you like. Let blender run as you add seasonings you like so they combine nicely. Pour this from blender back into a soup pot and let it simmer for a while to develop the flavors.

Pork Croutons:

Pork belly (as much as you want!)

salt

pepper

 

Cube the pork belly into bite size pieces (about 1/2 inch) salt and pepper pork belly and place in skillet on stove top. Let brown for 3-5 minutes DO NOT TOUCH IT. Let it brown and then flip it over and let the other side brown as well. Remove from skillet and place on paper towel lined plate to drain excess fat off of it.

plate up your soup and put the pork croutons in the middle for a nice presentation and enjoy ūüôā

 

I hope the freedom this recipe provides anyone who tries it shows you how silly it is to follow recipes exactly sometimes. This is an easy, simple and delicious recipe that if I had followed from a website would have included about 10 more ingredients. Food isn’t complicated or difficult if you stop worrying about following the recipe. This is so basic you could make it even more tailored to your specific tastes.¬†You could add roasted red peppers to this, you could add carrots but you will never know if you don’t try it.

Happy cooking!

~SKG

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How NOT to make a tres leches cake….

For those of you who do not know me, I am a superb baker and cook. This week, I decided to try and make one of my fiance and my favorite desserts when we go out to eat. Tres leches cake. Sounds easy, simple cake with a milk mixture poured over top right? uhhhh, yeahhhh not so much apparently. Here I was, separating 7 eggs, creaming together sugar, butter and egg yolks, my fiance was furiously whipping the egg whites into stiff peaks and then I was combining dry and wet ingredients into a bowl. Fold in some egg whites straight into the pan and then bake for 25 minutes.

I thought it had gone well until 25 minutes came and went and the center of my cake was still RAW. I mean serious, still pure batter raw. It took probably another 20 minutes to get the center of the cake cooked, and by then the edges of the cake were much more browned than I like. I figured, this is not so bad, the edges were slightly harder, but the middle was soft and seemed very moist. I went to pour the milk over the center of the cake collapsed. Completely sank in below the edges. Never in my life have I ever had a cake do this to me. I cooled the cake as the recipe called for and when I cut into it, it was the most dense cake I had ever seen in my life. It was about the texture of cookie dough.

original cake

Yeah, It looks bad, but honestly still tasted very good, could have used a touch more vanilla, but otherwise tasted delicious.

What went wrong though? I made sure my eggs were perfectly separated, I creamed my butter, sugar and egg yolks to exact specifications. Upon doing some research, it seems that it could have been a huge number of things, but the main culprits seems to the be that I put too much batter in my pan, I had too much fat in the cake and my egg whites deflated when I folded them into the batter. Not one to be very discouraged, I set out to revamp this recipe and make an even better cake (Plus, I added chocolate, which makes everything better). 

I cut the butter out of the recipe altogether. That was the only fat beyond the egg yolks and I decided that there was more than enough eggs to make up for the butter to be gone. I cut down on the number of eggs, cut down on the amount of flour and added powdered baking cocoa. I again creamed the egg yolks and part of the sugar together then adding some whole milk and vanilla, sifted together the dry ingredients and my fiance and I worked to whip the egg whites into stiff peaks (we really should buy a mixer with how often I bake) streamed in some sugar to help stiffen up the peaks and then had to fold the egg whites and dry ingredients into the egg yolk and sugar mixture alternating 1/3 at a time. 

This time, I separated the batter into 2 smaller pans, but a 9×13 would have worked for the amount of batter. Without fail, it took 25 minutes to bake, I cooked the milk mixture this time also so that it was hot and would absorb into the cake easier. If you have never worked with condensed milk, it is very thick, but if you mix it with other milks and heat it up, it thins out and will absorb much better!¬†

I cooled the cakes and then poured the milk over the top, the result?

perfect cake

A fluffy and light tres leches cake that was perfectly moist!

 

Easy and relatively quick to make, this one is definitely going to be a favorite for years and years in my house!

The cake:

2/3 cup flour

1/3 cup powdered baking cocoa

1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 large eggs (at room temperature works best) separated 

1 cup granulated sugar (separate this into 1/4c. and 3/4c.)

1/3 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. You will want the rack in the middle of the oven as well. Figure out what pan you are using. This recipe will work for a 9×13 or you can use a round pans or smaller square pans, just make sure you do not use too much batter in any one pan. Using either softened butter or veggie oil VERY lightly grease the sides and bottom of the pan, then use parchment paper to line the pan, using the oil or butter to keep the paper in place.¬†

Start by separating your eggs, making sure that you do not get any egg yolk in the egg white bowl, if you do the whites will not stiffen up how you need them too. Set your egg whites aside as you will beat them right before you fold them into the batter.

Add the 3/4cup of sugar into your egg yolks and whisk this together until it is a pale yellow color and is creamy, add your milk in and carefully whisk them together. Add vanilla next and combine. Set this bowl aside for now.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set this aside.

Now starts the fun, if you have a mixer you will beat the egg whites on high until they are in stiff peaks, once in stiff peaks stream in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until peaks are very stiff, but have not dried. Should only take approx. 3-4 minutes for this whole process using a mixer. If you don’t have a mixer, using a wire whisk quickly whisk the egg whites until they are stiff, this will take much longer than with a mixer. Once stiff, stream in sugar and beat until sugar is combined and egg whites are stiff.

To combine everything, start by adding 1/3 of flour mixture into the egg yolk and milk mixture, whisk this in until combined. Next, gently (and I mean GENTLY) fold in 1/3 of your egg whites. Once incorporated, add the next 1/3 of the flour mixture and fold this is. DO NOT whisk anymore, you will deflate the egg whites and your cake will not be fluffy and light. After that add the next 1/3 of your egg whites, and continue this until everything is folded in together. 

Pour your batter into the pan or pans and put on the middle rack of oven. Bake for 25 minutes and then remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. After cake has cooled for 10 minutes flip cake out of pan onto a cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature. After cake is cool, put back into the pan you baked it in MINUS the parchment paper. 

Using a toothpick, poke holes approx. 1/2inch apart over the surface of the cake. 

The Tres Leches part:

1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup of heavy cream

1 12oz can of evaporated milk

Combine the milks into a sauce pan and cook over a medium-low heat stirring constantly (to prevent the milk from scalding) until the edges start to bubble (do NOT let it boil). 

Once the milk has reached this point, remove from heat and begin to pour over the cake(s). Pause now and then to allow the mixture to absorb into the cake. It should absorb VERY quickly though. 

After you have poured all the milk over the cake, wrap in plastic wrap (or use a lid if your pan has one) and place in fridge to cool. Let cool for a minimum of 2 hours, but overnight is even better. 

 

I do not typically use frosting on tres leches cakes. I prefer just some fresh cut berries to add a bit of tartness to the sweetness and richness of the cake, but you can always add an easy whipped topping or buttercream if that is your preference. 

I hope you all enjoy!

My next baking adventure is going to be red velvet brownies! Can’t wait to tell you all about that!

~SKG~