Winter Paradise Butternut Squash Soup by Adrienne Novak

We’re in the midst of another polar vortex here in the Midwest and I am feeling compelled to make big pots of soup!   I find making soup warms the soul as much as eating it warms the body.  It’s a gratifying process that I have always loved and on this snowy day I welcomed the opportunity!

Eric, my fiancé, had roasted and then froze some butternut squash back in November, so I pulled that out to thaw and began to think about what flavor profile I wanted to take my soup.  I decided exotic would be nice- thoughts of warm sandy beaches and palm trees flashing through my mind. So, coconut milk was going to be a player, and some exotic spices as well.
I took a quick inventory of spices I had on-hand, grabbed my mortar and pestle and started to add cardamom seeds, star anise, whole cloves, whole cinnamon bark (stick), Himalayan sea salt and grains of paradise (Aframomum melegueta- a species in the ginger family from West Africa, where the peppery seeds grow on a leafy plant and are easily harvested) and ground this mixture into a fragrant powder that perfumed the whole kitchen.  I then added freshly grated nutmeg and a pinch of all spice.  Man was this tasty!  My tongue danced in delight when I tried a tiny bit and I knew I had a winning match to go with the buttery flavor of the squash and the richness of the coconut milk.
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I made this soup vegetarian, using vegetable stock, but you could certainly use chicken stock if you prefer.  While I do like to make my own, I also keep ready to use stocks and bouillon cubes in my pantry.  Working 70-80 hrs a week at our gluten-free bakery isn’t always conducive to having the time to keep homemade stocks on hand!  For this soup I used a vegan bouillon cube from Rapunzel, an all natural product from Switzerland that I get at my local health food co-op.
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Here is the recipe for my Paradise Spice Blend first.  It made about 2-3 tsp which is enough for the soup recipe, but you could easily double or triple it, to have some to keep in an airtight container for another use (I think it would be excellent as a rub for roasted chicken, but I’d love to hear how you would use it!)
Paradise Spice Blend (makes about 2-3 tsp)
Seeds from 4 Cardamom Pods
1 “petal” from a Star Anise “flower”
2 whole Cloves
1/8 tsp Grains of Paradise
1″ pc Stick Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Himalayan Coarse Sea Salt
1/8 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg
pinch All Spice
1.  Place first 6 ingredients in a mortar & pestle and crush and grind it to a smooth powder.
2.  Transfer to a small bowl and add last 2 ingredients and set aside until ready to use.
One note before we proceed:  Roast your squash in advance so that you’re not waiting on it when you want to make your soup! You can keep it in your fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.
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Now for the soup:
Winter Paradise Butternut Squash Soup (makes about 3 quarts)
2 c Onions, chopped (about 2 medium onions)
3 lg cloves Garlic, minced
1T Coconut Oil (or Olive Oil, but I love the amazing taste, versatility and health benefits of coconut)
6 cups Butternut Squash, roasted, peeled and rough-chopped ( about 2 avg. sized)
1 Apple, peeled, cored and chopped (I love Pink Lady)
2 tsp Paradise Spice Blend (recipe above)
2 c Vegetable Stock (or Chicken stock, if you prefer)
2-3 c Water
1/2 Lemon, juiced
Sea Salt, to taste
1/8-1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1- 14-15oz can Coconut Milk (full fat preferably)
1.  Heat a large soup pot (at least 4 qt capacity) over medium-high and add coconut oil
2.   Add onions and garlic and sauté until tender ( about 7-8 min).  Season with salt to your taste.
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3.  Add the squash and apple and cook, stirring often, until bubbling.  Add 1 tsp of Paradise Spice Blend and stir to incorporate.
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4.  Add stock and 2 cups of the water and return to boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then use a stick blender and purée the soup until completely smooth (or transfer to a blender and purée in batches and return to the pot).

Gluten Free Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake

OK folks, here is a really ridiculous and decadent cake that I sometimes make when I have chocolate junkies or gluten free friends in town and begging me to make them something chocolate for desert. It is kind of like eating a soft and gooey fudge. I use a large spring form pan but you can make it in cake pans as long as you line the bottoms with parchment paper and grease your pans lightly with butter.  It is so rich and delicious you only need a little slice of it with some vanilla ice cream a little raspberry coulis and some homemade whipped cream. Its almost as good as…….well lets just say its really good. It is very easy to make and won’t last long once you make it. This is a good one! Enjoy……..

Recipe

1 c chambord liquor
½ tsp salt
1 ½ c sugar
36 oz of bittersweet or milk chocolate
2 c unsalted butter softened
12 eggs beaten
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrease. Butter 1 12 x 3 inch spring form pan and set aside. Wrap springform pan in heavy duty foil to prevent water from getting inside of pan.
In a small sauce pan add chambord, sugar and salt and heat until sugar is dissolved and syrup is hot, set syrup aside.
In the top half of a double boiler melt chocolate until smooth. Pour into bowl of your mixer and beat the softened butter into chocolate one piece at a time until all butter is incorporated and smooth. Beat in hot sugar syrup. Slowly beat in eggs one at a time mixing thoroughly.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Place spring form pan into a roasting pan and pour enough water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the spring form pan. Bake the cake until it is slightly firm and set, but the center still looks a little wet. Remove cake from roasting pan and chill cake in springform pan overnight. To loosen cake from pan, dip pan in hot water for about 15 seconds and remove from pan.

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