Warm Butternut and Bell Pepper Salad

Warm Butternut and Bell Pepper Salad

On Sunday, I woke up and realized that I’d barely eaten a single vegetable between Friday and Saturday. Please tell me that happens to you, too. This recipe was born out of a need to make something delicious and vegetable-based, with the ingredients already in my kitchen. It’s funny how sometimes the most wonderful dishes come together that way – and I can guarantee that this dish is indeed wonderful. It’s got soft, slightly sweet butternut squash, bell peppers, garlic, and onions as a base.  To flavor it, I created a cross between a light balsamic vinaigrette and Chinese take-out inspired sauce that works with the nutty squash flavor better than I could’ve dreamed.

I was cooking bacon before I started concocting my “stir-fry,” so I threw some torn, thick-cut bacon in with the mix. It added another dimension to the texture, and I don’t think I even need to remind you how adding the flavor of bacon to just about anything will immediately improve it. I wilted some spinach into it at the end to add a little more color and bulk. I don’t actually love cooked spinach all that much, but the flavor of it sort of disappeared in this dish, so I got more nutrition without that bitter wilted spinach flavor. This is yet another addition to my “make vegetables taste good” file.

I was truly just throwing things in the pan for this one. Chop up the vegetables, saute them, and add your sauce. Then throw in a big handful of fresh spinach, let it cook down, and the result is a perfect alternative to a regular cold salad. The prep and cooking processes take maybe 30 minutes, and you don’t have to stand at the stove the whole time the food is cooking. Since starting this blog, I’ve become very aware of how much I like being able to multitask. If I can make lunch and clean up the kitchen at the same time, (and maybe text and dance and dream up other blog ideas as well), I am a much happier person.

I invented this recipe to be my lunch, but it would make a fabulous side dish for beef or chicken, or even a vegetarian entree if you forgo the bacon (just make sure to taste it and see if it needs an extra dash of salt in that case!). That said, the recipe makes a fairly small portion. Even as a side dish, you may need to double or triple the measurements depending on who you’re feeding. It’s a quick, healthy lunch or dinner for when you want something warm and comforting, but still light and fresh. If you’re doing any kind of low carb diet, then this recipe is definitely for you.

I always mention how recipes are incredibly versatile, but I suppose that as a person who can’t ever follow a recipe without tweaking it, I just think everything is open to interpretation. You could try this dish with other kinds of squash, any greens you like, beets, or mushrooms – the possibilities are endless when you’ve got some onion, garlic, and a great sauce to start.




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Warm Butternut and Bell Pepper Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 medium white onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 2 cups diced butternut squash
  • 2-3 strips of bacon
  • 3 tsps olive oil, divided use
  • 1 tsps balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsps sesame chili oil
  • 2 tsps soy sauce
  • 2 tsps honey
  • 2 tsps rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsps brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 big handful of fresh spinach

Instructions

  1. Chop red bell pepper, onion, bacon, and butternut squash, and mince garlic. Add to skillet on high heat with a tsp of olive oil. Give them a quick stir once every minute or so.

    2. In a small bowl, stir together all remaining ingredients including 2 tsps of olive oil to make the sauce. When the vegetables in the skillet just start to brown, pour half of the sauce over them and stir.

    3. Keep an eye on the skillet, stirring frequently (but not constantly). When the vegetables look like they're almost done (squash and peppers are tender, onions are browned), pour the other half of the sauce into the skillet and stir.

    4. Let cook for 3-4 more minutes, and lower heat. Add fresh spinach to the skillet and stir in. Let it cook just long enough for the spinach to wilt. Remove from heat and serve.

    Note: I place a large pot lid over my skillet after adding the spinach to help it wilt a little faster.


Tomato Basil Bisque

Tomato Basil Bisque

I should really save myself some time and just re-name this blog “Stuff I Like to Eat.” If you were wondering how I decide what I’m going to post next, it’s generally a combination of what I’ve been craving, and what recipes I’ve already done some work and testing on. This Tomato Basil Bisque is exactly what I’ve been wanting lately, despite the fact that I live on the east coast and we’re currently experiencing some full-on early spring. It’s not exactly creamy tomato soup weather, but who says it really has to be? It’s February, and that’s good enough for me!

This Tomato Basil Bisque is, like most of my recipes, a conglomeration of several others, with some of my own additions. The main inspirations for this soup were this recipe, and this one. I took my favorite parts of those, and went from there. My version of Tomato Basil Bisque is thick and creamy, deeply flavorful, and it’s got a little kick that’s balanced by the cream in the recipe. It’s not too spicy in any sense of the word, but it’s most certainly not bland.

This recipe calls for butternut squash, which I think adds a lot of body and a nice, almost nutty flavor that blends really well with the tomato. I wish I could say that was my own idea, but I got it from the second recipe linked above. The first time I worked with this soup, I tried it with sweet potato instead, to see if I could cut the (already small) amount of added sugar, but it was mostly a failure. Recipe testing is so fun – until it doesn’t turn out the way you’d hoped, and then you’re left with half a gallon of weird failure soup.

I paired my Tomato Basil Bisque with an upgraded grilled cheese, made on sourdough with cheddar and mozzarella, and a thin layer of mayo (try it, it’s a game changer). I’m sitting here writing this and wondering what else people serve with tomato soup – will begin that research soon!

The process for making this soup is pretty easy, and not too time-consuming. The whole thing spends roughly an hour on the stove, but you don’t have to watch it constantly. The only prep work is chopping some garlic and onion and measuring out spices, so it doesn’t become too tedious, either. You could get a batch of Stuffed Corn Bubbles filled with cheese rising/baking in the oven while making this soup, and then die of happiness when you eat them together. The southwestern flavors in both recipes would make them a brilliant pairing! I guess I just answered my own question about what else you serve with tomato soup!




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Creamy Tomato Basil Bisque

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 5

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 14.5 oz cans Hunt's fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 oz tomato paste
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups butternut squash, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsps dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp onion powder

Instructions

  1. Roughly chop onions and mince garlic. Add to a large pot with 2 Tbsps of butter. Let cook until onions and garlic begin to brown.

    2. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, butternut squash (make sure the squash chunks aren't too large, so they won't take forever to cook), salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, brown sugar, cayenne, and chili powder to the pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Continue to stir occasionally while soup is simmering.

    3. Test butternut squash to see if it's fork-tender. When it is, remove soup from heat, and blend until smooth. I used my NutriBullet, but any blender would do.

    4. Return soup to the pot over low heat and stir in cream, milk, and onion powder, Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy with a grilled cheese, or by itself!