Squash Soup 1: Coconut and Lemon grass

We have a bumper crop of this gorgeous heirloom squash called Galeux d’Eysines. The name means “embroidered with warts from Eysines (a small town in France). ” These warts are actually produced from the sugar in the squash.
Mike grew squash because we eat it often-roasted, on salad greens and in soups. I made this fabulous Coconut and Lemon grass soup last week–the perfect transition from Summer to Fall. The coconut and lemon grass are reminiscent of a tropical, beach-y meal. There is nothing more “Fall” than creamy smooth squash.
While I used our Galeux d’Eysines, you can use any variety of winter squash or pumpkin for this soup. To make your life easy, pick up a package of pre-cut and peeled butternut squash in the produce department.
Lemon grass add a light citrus flavor to the soup, balancing the richness of the coconut milk and squash. You can find fresh lemon grass in the produce department. Find a great guide on the use of lemon grass here. I could not find fresh lemon grass, but found prepared lemon grass, in a tube, in the produce department at Wegmans. Use either option–although the tube option is quick and easy to use!
This soup cooks quick and freezes great. The recipe below serves 4. Serve with some garlic Naan or a baguette.

The ingredients:

3 cups squash–peeled, cut into 2-3″ chunks (any variety, butternut, acorn, pumpkin)

1 tablespoon EVOO
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot, diced
1 whole jalapeno
1 inch of fresh ginger root, peeled and diced
1-2 stalks of fresh lemon grass, yellow/fleshy section, chopped OR 2 tablespoons of prepared lemon grass (in a tube, source: Wegman’s produce department)
15 oz can of coconut milk
Fresh cilantro
Get soup-y
Preheat oven to 400F. Place squash chunks in a large baking dish, toss with olive oil and salt/pepper.
Bake for 30 minutes or until it is soft, with some brown caramelized edges.
After squash is cooked, remove form oven and put aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot. Add to butter shallots and ginger, cooking over medium heat and stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until shallots are translucent and ginger is fragrant.
Add WHOLE jalapeno and lemon grass, stir. Cook 2-3 more minutes.
Add cooked squash, stir.
De-glaze the pan with can of coconut milk and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil.
Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove jalapeno.
Using an immersion blender, puree in pot until smooth. Or, puree in a blender in batches.
Top with fresh cilantro and serve immediately.

Broth Making: Homemade vegetable broth

The other night, I was all set to experiment with a squash soup recipe I had bouncing around in my head, but I realized I was totally out of vegetable broth.

What’s a Nana-in-Training to do? Well, make homemade broth, of course! Homemade vegetable is easy, delicious and economical freezer staple. To make broth you will need a selection of vegetables, herbs, spices and water. You can really use any mixture of vegetables. Use up those vegetable ghosts of recipes past and make this fantastic freezer staple.
Vegetable broth is great in soups and other recipes. Swap out chicken broth and make your vegetable soup, truly vegetarian. Use it instead of water for rice or couscous.
This batch yielded 22 cups of broth!!
The goods
1 bunch of celery–washed, stalks separated, leaves on (I used celery left over from bloody mary’s)
5 red potatoes-washed, skin-on, quartered
1/2 cup mushrooms–any variety (I used plain jane white mushrooms)
1 bulb garlic, roughly chopped
1 large onion–washed, skin on, quartered
1 cup carrot (I had left over shreds. You can just toss in a couple whole carrots cut into chunks)
Stems from one bunch of broccoli (who eats the stems anyway? save the tops for dinner!)
3 Bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Fresh herbs–I used the stems from one bunch of cilantro, 2 stems of basil. (The stems have flavor too, perfect for broth!)
2 inches of ginger, un-peeled, roughly chopped
Large stock pot, preferably a large pasta pot with strainer insert
Plenty of freezer bags
Liquid measuring cup
Permanent marker
Put all ingredients in your pasta pot with the strainer insert in place (or in a large stock pot). Cover completely with water. Put lid on and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for 1-2 hours, until stock is fragrant and rich in color (should be like a caramel color).
Remove from heat. Let stand and cool at room temperate for another hour.
After broth is cooled remove strainer insert from pot. Or if you used a stock pot, strain broth into a large bowl or pot.
Use liquid measuring cup to measure broth in 1 or 2 cup portions. Pour into freezer bags, label, date and freeze flat. Yield: 15-20 cups

Solutions: Address stampers and calling cards!

I remember the first time I had to fill out a form for Lily–it was her first pediatrician appointment. At the time, it seemed so exciting to be able to do things for my baby–it made Lily a real little person with a real identity.

Then came day care, later more doctors, school, horse back riding, art classes, choir, ballet and then a baby sister–who had activities, school and doctors and needed all the forms filled out. In these first two weeks of September, I’ve filled out about 35 forms. Sometimes, I need to fill out a nearly identical form-twice-for the same activity. It actually makes me want someone to install a microchip in my hand, so I can just scan in and be done.
This great solution comes from my husband’s Aunt Lydia. Lydia–who cans and cooks and crafts and works full time–has creative solutions! Lydia suggests buying a rubber stamper with your address on it and use this on your children’s forms. Keep the address stamper in your purse and voila, you have at least part of the tedious form complete in minutes!
And as luck would have it, Vistaprint has a free address stamp offer going now! Each stamper allows for 3 lines worth of text–which I fit in our last name (figuring that I will use the stamper for all of us and just write in the first name), our address (all on one line) and home telephone number.
And while you are shopping, grab 250 free business cards! Whether you have business card for professional purposes or not, personal “calling” cards are great. Use them when you meet a new mom or a potential babysitter or anyone you want to keep in touch with. Tuck one in your kids backpacks and use as luggage tags. Vistaprint has oodles of cute designs.
All you pay is shipping–which amounts to about $6.
A fabulous deal and effective solution that gets the Nana seal of approval!