It’s Good to Be Home and Opo Squash Soup with Shrimp

 

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Moving back home has a been so nice. Being near my parents has made a huge difference in our daily lives. A major benefit of being near my family has been the abundance of family support and company they have offered us the minute we got back. From cooking to unpacking, they’ve added so much more enjoyment and warmth to our day.

Aside from the company of our family, the abundance of vegetables and herbs from my dad’s garden has been so enjoyable.  I know we’re adults with our own daughter, but it feels nice to have our parents nearby and feeding our bellies every so often. Opo Squash and Kabocha Squash are two abundant vegetables in my dad’s garden and I’ve been happily accepting them when I’m offered. One of the easiest ways to use it is in soups.

The method is very easy and a trick I learned from my mom is to not add too much water  when making soups because a lot of vegetables release their own liquid so it will make your soup that much sweeter if you don’t dilute it by adding too much water. So for about 4 cups of chopped up Opo Squash or Kabocha Squash I’ll add about 2.5 cups of water.

I usually use water because I prefer the milder flavor for this soup compared to using chicken broth but you can definitely use chicken broth if you prefer! You can use any protein you want to add to this soup, pork ribs are very common addition, but I like using shrimp.

Ooo Squash Soup with Shrimp (Canh Bau)

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup -1/2 cup of onion, minced
4 cup of opo squash, peeled and chopped in 1/2 inch to 1/3 inch pieces
1 cup of peeled shrimp, chopped and season with a pinch of salt and pepper
1 Tbs fish sauce (You can always start with 1/2 Tbs and add more later, but I like more salty flavor)
2.5 cups of water (If using chicken broth use less fish sauce to start)
salt and pepper
cilantro for garnish
2 tsp vegetable oil

In a medium size pot add oil over medium heat sauté onion and garlic untill onions are translucent. About 2-3 minutes
Add shrimp and sautee untill shrimp turns pink.
Add water cover and bring to boil.
Once boiling add the squash and slight cover with lid.
Once water comes back to boil, add fish sauce, pinch of salt, and pepper and lower to medium low.
Cook for about 15-20 minutes until squash is soft.
Taste and adjust season as necessary.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

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Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup and I’m a Year Older 🤷🏻‍♀️

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I wanted to make butternut squash soup this Sunday. Usually I would use milk to make it more creamy but I remembered I had some coconut milk in the fridge. Hmm…intriguing I thought. Honestly, I was hesitant to use it because to me coconut milk doesn’t seem like a natural partner to butternut squash. But something inside me was whispering that it just might work. I did a quick search on the internet and came across this recipe. It looked similar to what I had in mind so I gave it a try.

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Yay for trying new recipes and it actually being delicious!

So, it’s squash time and if you guys are wanting to try a new soup recipe…try this one on NYT Cooking!

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Simple ingredients for a quick and delicious soup,
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If you don’t have an immersion blender, but you love making soups-get one! It’ll change your life.
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Enjoy with a glass of white wine (optional of course)😉

By the way my birthday was last week and my dad sent me this really nice basket.
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I mentioned to him a while back I wanted a shallow basket to harvest herbs in my patio. He sent me this beauty for my birthday. It’s a little too big for harvesting herbs, but I think it’s perfect for my garlic and onions! 👍 Thanks Dad!
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Lemony Parmesan Roasted Brussel Sprouts

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If you’re not a fan of Brussel sprouts I don’t think any recipe will make you like them..but if you do like them, roasting them is probably the most popular, and in my opinion, the best way to make them. The first time I had roasted Brussel sprouts I was so amazed at how delicious this “unpopular” vegetable actually tasted. Crispy caramelized outside, cooked and tender on the inside, tossed in garlic, salt, and olive oil, they are the perfect accompanyment for chicken or fish.

Here is my recipe for Brussel sprouts. I don’t even know if I can call it a recipe because there’s really no measurements. Everything is pretty much season to taste!

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Lemony Parmesan Roasted Roasted Brussel Sprouts
About 1 lb Brussel Sprouts
4-5 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Parmesan Cheese
Lemon Zest

1. Preheat oven to 450
2. Cut the bottom stem off Brussel sprouts, then cut into halves.
3. Leave the smaller ones whole so all the pieces are similar size.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. Toss Brussel sprouts and garlic right on the parchment pepper.
6. Add olive oil to coat.
7. Add a good pinch or two of salt and pepper.
8. Toss to combine and evenly distribute.
9. Bake for 20 minutes.
10. Remove from oven
11. Add shaved parmesan cheese and lemon zest, toss and serve.

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Trim off bottom stem, then cut in half. Leave smaller ones whole so all pieces are similar size. Often once you trim and cut the sprouts, some of the outer leaves will fall off which is fine because most of the outer leaves have spots on them anyways.

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Caesar Dressing

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Easy as Sunday morning…
Such a relaxing Sunday day . Today’s high is 102.  That means staying indoors, staying cool, and bumming around.   Not that I’m complaining about having to stay in.  It’s been more hectic than usual this week so it’s nice to just, sit. I wanted to make something special for dinner this weekend. Actually I want to make something special for every weekend.  For one, it is the weekend.  And two, hubby had a weekend off.  Two reasons to celebrate.  So I decided to have Filet Mignon.  Steak is always a special occasion food for us.  This time,  I wanted to do something different than my usual mash potatoes, asparagus and mushrooms.  Especially because of the heat, I wanted a side dish that was refreshing, simple, and cooling…Caesar Salad!

When I first learned that anchovies were used in Caesar Salad, I really had no desire to make it myself.  I had rather let this delicious creamy dressing stay mysterious to me.  But over time resistance gave in to a sense of self accomplishment and I became interested in making Caesar dressing. So  I felt yesterday was as good a time as any to tackle this,Caesar dressing once and for all!

I looked up lots of recipes, some using egg yolks, some with a lot of mayonnaise,  and some with a little.  I decided to go with this recipe I found that got great reviews and changed it for a smaller serving size. The dressing was so tasty, lemony, and creamy.  And it tasted like Caesar dressing (!) but with a homemade fresh flavor.  I dare say the salad was better than the steak.  Here is my version of Caesar dressing. I eyeballed the measurements so this is my best recollection of what i used for each amount.

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Caesar Dressing (makes about 1 cup)
½ cup mayonnaise
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼  cup milk
2 anchovy filets
3 garlic cloves (about 1 tbs garlic)
juice of small lemon (1 tbs lemon juice)
½ tbs Dijon mustard
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
pinch (about 1/4 tsp) of salt and pepper or to taste

  • Combine all ingredients in mini food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. That’s it!

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Italian Potato Salad

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Hope everyone had a nice weekend.  My weekend was uneventful but still nice. And I just now realized that this Friday is the 4th of July…. food and fireworks baby!!! I suddenly feel giddy again.

Over the weekend I roasted a tri-tip and wanted to have it with potatoes.  Now, I love creamy potato salad and I love creamy mayonnaise based potato salad, but this weekend I felt like making a light potato salad to pay homage to the  warm and wonderful summer weather.  After some searching on the web I found this recipe for Italian Potato Salad and it seem to be what I had in mind.  I did my usual modifications, mainly to adjust for a smaller serving size.

The potato salad came out to be exactly what I wanted.  Light, refreshing, and tasty.  I added fresh chopped basil, and instead of pepperoncini, I used pickles.  I think pepperoncini would have been fantastic if I had them,  but the pickles worked well.  Adding some salami would have be great also.
If you’re ever in the mood for light refreshing potato salad that uses olive oil instead of mayonnaise give this recipe a try, maybe this 4th of July? 🙂

Italian Potato Salad
4 medium potatoes
½ cup thinly sliced red onions
1/3 cup pepperccini peppers or chopped pickles

Dressing
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp minced garlic
pinch salt and pepper
1/8 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp dried oregano
pinch thyme
pinch red pepper flakes

¼ cup chopped fresh basil (optional)

  • Mix together all ingredients for dressing.
  • Clean and peel potatoes
  • Cut into 1 inch cubes
  • in a pot, cover with just enough water to cover potatoes
  • Add about 1 tsp of salt
  • Cover and bring to boil
  • Once boiling, uncover and turn heat to medium
  • Cook for another 5 minutes or until potatoes or tender
  • Drain and move to bowl, add thinly sliced onions.
  • In same pot on medium heat cook dressing till boiling.
  • Once boilng turn off heat and pour over potatoes and onions
  • Mix to incorporate.
  • Add pickles and chopped basil

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Grilled Vegetable Couscous with Mint

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I love this couscous recipe.  It’s hard for me to say what’s more important in this dish, the grilled vegetables, or the fresh mint, or the juice of the lemon, or maybe it’s the homegrown tomatoes ;). They all contribute to a nice medley of fresh summer flavors.   It’s a great side dish to accompany any grilled meat or fish dish.  This time I served it with grilled shrimp skewers.  Bell peppers would be  great but I already used bell peppers for the shrimp skewers. Nice flavorful summery dinner.

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Grilled Veggie Couscous (3-4 servings)
1 ½ cups of cooked couscous
2 medium zucchini cut into wedges or slices
½ red onion sliced into medium thickness
1 cup of cherry tomatoes
½ cup fresh mint, chopped
3 tbs olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper

Drizzle about 1 tbs olive oil over vegetables and lightly season with salt and pepper.
On medium high heat grill the zucchini and onion until softened with grilled marks.
Remove from grill onto a platter.
Grill tomatoes just until slightly softened and move to platter.
Once cooled, cut zucchini and onions into small pieces about ½ inch in size.
Cut cherry tomatoes in half (careful not to smash them).
Combine in bowl with couscous.
Add olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper, juice of lemon, and mint.
Gently toss to combine.

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