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Its Friday So It Must Be Soup! Pozole Verde

Okay, it's been a bit of a sparse month for my poor yum yum factor. Between travelling over the holidays and stressing about my last month of no reEATS , I have been neglecting this blog for a while now but this will all be done now that the year is over and I no longer have to commit to never repeating a recipe for dinner is over.
I can relax, kick back and just cook for the fun of it again and , best of all, I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, how many times I want to!

This week, I made a pozole verde - a mexican pork soupy stew with hominy and lots of good green stuff. It was also my last official post on no reEATS for 2011 so I had to use it over there but I will share a link to it here. I had planned make this before we went away on our Xmas trip and use it as my friday soup the week before we left for Mexico to get the holiday started on a good note but it was just too busy. Making it after we returned home turned out to be an even better idea.

Pozole Verde

1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tbls mexican oregano
pinch cumin seed
pinch peppercorns
2 lbs pork shoulder butt

1/2 cups pumpkin seeds
28 oz or approx 800g tomatillos, drained
1/2 cup chopped, canned poblano peppers
small sprig cilantro
2 or 3 cloves garlic
1 onion, chopped
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
a couple of tbls of vegetable oil

2 or 3 red potatoes, 1/2" dice
36.5 oz or 1 kg can hominy, drained
the pork cooking stock and any additional water or chicken stock to bring it to about 5 cups

thinly sliced radish, deep fried corn tortilla strips, fresh lime wedges, raw red onion sliced really thinly, mexican oregano if you can find it

Put the pork butt, onion, cumin seed, peppercorns and garlic in a heavy pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer, half covered, for about three hours or until the pork is falling apart tender.
Remove the pork from the liquid and set aside to cool a bit. You can do this the day before and let the strained stock sit in the fridge overnight so you can get rid of most of the fat (don't get rid of all of it because it's really tasty and this isn't the time to worry about your diet). If you aren't making it the next day, strain it and let it sit and then do your best to remove the thick layer of fat on the top of the stock.

Meanwhile, toast the pumpkin seeds over medium heat in a dry skillet until they swell up and start to pop and then remove and set aside. Drain the tomatillos and the peppers.
When the pumpkin seeds cool down, put them in a blender or food processor and grind to a fine powder. Then add the tomatillos, peppers, salt and pepper, onion, garlic and cilantro and process until completely smooth (you might have to add up to 1/2 cup of the pork stock if it's too thick to process)

Heat a couple of tbls of veg oil in the same heavy pot you cooked the pork in over med high heat and pour in the green pumpkin seed/tomatillo puree and cook it until the colour deepens at a nice simmer, about 15 to 25 minutes. It will thicken and the colour will become darker and richer.

Meanwhile, shred up the pork, discard the fat and set aside. Wash and chop the potatoes without peeling them and set those aside too.

After the green sauce has cooked for about 20 minutes, add the shredded pork,drained hominy and the potatoes. Add enough of the pork broth that it is a nice, soupy consistency but not a thin soup. Use your judgement - it's between a soup and a stew. I added about 5 cups of stock and the constancy was perfect.

Let that continue to simmer for another 20 minutes or more, until the potatoes are cooked. Squeeze in the juice of a lime and serve in shallow bowls.

Serve it with your additions so people can add whatever they want to the top of their pozole. You can also serve it with chopped avocado, shredded cabbage or lettuce but we didn't this time.

Christmas Cookie, Candy and Chocolate Extravaganza

I like to bake at christmas time and up until recently it was pretty much the only time I baked all year and unless they are all lying to me, my friends and family seem to really enjoy the treats I make for them. I get special requests for specific things and I always like to throw one or two new things into the mix.

This year I had decided I would do chocolate pecan toffee, chambord dark chocolate truffles, lime melt aways (my mother in law would probably stop talking to me if I didn't make these for her), the cardamom ginger cookies I made for the Great Blogger Cookie Exchange and a delicious Lemon Almond Meringue that I found on Joy the Baker.

There was one small snag this year though. We decided on Wednesday night to book a week in Tulum, Mexico, leaving Saturday, which is fabulous, no? Except that when I woke up Thursday morning, I realized that if I was going to put together baking gift boxes for Little Shack's teachers, I was going to have to make all of those things that day.

In one day.

It's Friday So It Must Be Soup! Turkey Quinoa

So, it's Friday and I still haven't made any soup this week so the heat was on to come up with something cobbled together from what I had on hand already. I actually like the challenge and often come up with some of my favourite things that way - well,  if you can overlook the odd black bean peach chowder or
an anchovy corn creme brûlée.

Blogger Cookie Exchange - Cardamom Ginger Cookies

 I was so excited to sign on to participate in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap because it meant I could connect with three other bloggers (most likely Canadian as shipping food across borders gets squicky in a post 9-11 world where xmas cookies are now eyed suspiciously ). It also meant that I would receive a dozen cookies from three of my fellow bloggers and that is always a great thing. I love eating other people's baked goods.

My favourite and most requested cookie is a really spicy, crispy ginger snap but I have written about that on my blog and we were instructed to make something that we have never blogged about so that meant I either had to make something completely different or change up my standard ginger snap. I have been pretty obsessed with cardamom for the last few months so I started searching out a yummy sounding cookie with cardamom but all I was seeing were sugar cookies with cardamom added to the dough and that didn't interest me at all. I don't really like overly sweet cookies, if that makes sense. I like super dark chocolate things, I like citrusy things and I like spicy things.

I was so happy to come across this recipe on tastespotting where the beautiful photo caught my eye and took me over to SPCookieQueen's blog. I didn't really change much at all, I just added some candied orange peel and used coarse sanding sugar to roll the cookies because the recipe sounded great as it was. I think she made huge cookies and I made them small like my ginger snaps - I find that when I am eating a really heavily spiced cookie, I only want a small one. Mine aren't as pretty as hers, maybe due to the small size and lack of big cracks in the surface but I think they turned out really great and I hope that Christina from wannafoodie , Katie from Adventures in Actuality and Amanda from The Vanilla Beanery  enjoyed them.

Its Friday So It Must Be Soup! Creamy Tomato Fennel Soup

I had big plans to make a pozole this week but life and work got in the way and there was not going to be time to make anything that labour intensive. With pozole put on the back burner, I found that I couldn't stop thinking about the cream of tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons that Dianne made last week for no reEats. Unfortuntately, she wasn't happy with the recipe she used so I knew I would make up my own but I still love the idea of a creamy tomato soup with those grilled cheese croutons. I also wanted to try out my evaporated milk in place of creme again in a soup so I could keep the creamy texture without adding tons of unwanted fat. I have to tell you, I have not been disappointed with the evaporated milk yet and I have tried it in soups and sauces for months now. It lightens the soup up so that I can indulge more freely in the grilled cheese croutons. Dianne is right about those things - they are truly the star of the show! I used a sharp cheddar with flax seed bread because The Kid likes his grilled cheese straight up but I think I am going to try making a grilled cheese with some blue cheese in there for my own soup next time.

Creamy Tomato Fennel Soup

1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped fennel
1 to 2 cloves garlic chopped
glug olive oil
2 thin slices of pancetta chopped
1 tsp PC Umami #5 
4 cups tomato puree
1 cup chicken stock
evaporated milk
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

grilled cheese croutons:
(allow 1/2 sandwich per bowl)
bread of your choice
cheese of your choice

Preheat a frying pan over med heat.
Butter the bread on the outside and flip it so that the buttered side is down. Add your cheese to the unbuttered side of the bottom slice and top with the second slice, buttered side up.
Put the sandwich into the frying pan and cook until dark and toasty on the bottom. Flip it, flatten it with a spatula and continue to cook until the second side is all toasty brown and the cheese is melted.
Let it cool for a minute on a cutting board before you cut it into cubes to make your croutons.

Heat a heavy saucepan over med heat and add a glug of olive oil - about 2-3 tbls I would think. Add the onion and sweat for a couple of minutes before throwing in the pancetta and the fennel and sauté for about 10 minutes until all the veggies are soft and starting to take on a bit of colour. Add the Umami #5 paste and stir that around for another 30 or 40 seconds before you add the tomato and the stock and let that simmer for about 20 minutes. If you want it super smooth you can either take it off the heat and pour it into a blender to puree or use an immersion blender. After it's nice and smooth, stir in 3/4 cup of evaporated milk and taste and adjust your salt. Let it sit with the lid on, off the heat while you make your grilled cheese croutons.
Ladle into a bowl, add lots of freshly ground black pepper and your grilled cheese croutons.

What a little wine, some candy and some well placed icing sugar can do

So, Dianne,  my beautiful and generous friend and blogging partner in crime at no reEats has an annual gingerbread house decorating party that I have had to miss for the last three years in a row because I am usually off on my christmas trip at that time. I was kind of exited but kind of stressed out by the fact that I was going to be able to attend this year's festivities. You see, as much as I love to drink wine and glue candy to a gingerbread house, I am mildly terrified of the other women who partake in this yearly event. To say that some of them are competitive would be like saying that I like to eat a little bit. The first time I went, I was so naive. I went to the Bulk Barn and just bought a bunch of festive looking candies and figured I would just wing it when I got there., expecting nothing more than good conversation, snacks and wine and a bunch of beaches moms relaxing with a nice little craft. By the time I arrived, the keeners were already there with their tool kits, their sketches, their glue guns and their additions and pieces that they had already made themselves at home. There was a crazy, off kilter Dr Suess house that night and the rest of them looked like maquettes for some millionaire's ski chalet by this hot new Norweigan architect, Sven Svenersson.

My sad little house, covered in dripping icing and mismatched candy looked so sad and juvenile by comparison. * see Halloween's house for reference

Its Friday So It Must Be Soup! Butternut Squash Pear Soup

Last summer I had the most incredible squash pear soup with blue cheese and I have been craving it ever since. I had a squash to do a soup with this week and I was going back and forth between replicating the pear squash soup or doing something spicy with coconut and curry paste and , in the end, I chose to try out a pear soup. I found lots of great looking soups for inspiration and I finally settled on this soup from The Pastry Affair as my base but I switched out the apples and juice for pear, I added some pancetta and thyme and to cut the sweetness, I added just a bit of curry powder. I find curry has this ability to add a new depth of flavour with actually making the food taste like curry and I find I use a pinch of it here and there all the time. On it's own it's quite sweet but once you add the greek yogurt and the blue cheese, the sweetness sits in the background and lets the stinky socks and the sour tang of the yogurt play down. One of The Neighbour's loved it, one hated, Little Shack hated and I loved it. I knew that blue cheese was an acquired taste but I didn't realize that squash was such a polarizing food item.

This soup doesn't taste like the soup I ate last summer but it is really good and I will certainly make this one again. Well, I will make again next year since TODAY MARKS THE LAST MONTH IN MY NO REEATS CHALLANGE!!!
do I sound exited?

Butternut Squash Pear Soup
adapted from this squash soup on The Pastry Affair

1 2-3 lb butternut squash
3 pears, peeled, cored and quarted
about 30g pancetta
1 cup celery, diced finely
1 onion, diced finely
sprig fresh thyme
olive oil
1/2 cup pear juice
salt and pepper
4-4 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp mild curry powder
blue cheese, crumbled for serving
greek yogurt

preheat oven to 425F

Peel and cube the squash into approx 2" chunks and toss them with some olive oil and salt. Put on a parchment lined baking tray and roast for about 45 minutes
During the last 10 to 15 minutes of roasting, throw the quartered pears on top.

Meanwhile, heat a glug of olive oil in a soup pot and sauté the pancetta til crispy and then remove with a slotted spoon. Add the  onion and celery and cook until they are softened. Add the squash and the pears, the chicken broth, thyme and the pear juice and simmer until everything is nice and soft, for another 15 minute. Either remove to puree in a blender or use an immersion blender to make it smooth and creamy right in the soup pot.
To serve, ladle the soup into a bowl, scatter a bit of blue cheese on top and a dollop of greek yogurt

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