Squash Toasts with Ricotta and Caramelized Onions

Okay… if the name of this post didn’t grab your attention, I don’t know what will. Butternut Squash, Ricotta Cheese, and the most perfect Caramelized Onions piled into some nice, thick toast. Oh, and there’s maple syrup. And a bit of spice, too. This is seriously the most brilliant combination of some of my favourite ingredients – completely unexpected, but so amazing. Easy enough for a weekday lunch, but fancy enough to serve guests.

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Out of curiosity… Are any of you guys preparing for this blizzard that is hitting the Northeastern US? I mentioned last week that it’s been an uncharacteristically warm January in Calgary, but on Saturday I was walking to go for lunch, and even I was shocked to see multiple patios full. We’re pretty used to freezing temperatures and crazy amounts of snow, but we certainly know how to take advantage of warmer weather. Anyway, stay safe, if you’re in the blizzard zone – if I were you, I would probably spend my day making soup, but these winter-y squash toasts could be a perfect choice too.

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Squash Toasts with Ricotta and Caramelized Onions

Adapted from Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen, via NYTimes Cooking

Serves 4 as a Main, 8 as an Appetizer

1 2 1/2 – 3 lb Butternut Squash (or other yellow squash), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices

1/2 cup Olive Oil

1/2 tsp Dried Chile Flakes

3 tsp Kosher Salt

1 Yellow Onion, peeled & thinly sliced

1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

1/4 Maple Syrup

4 Slices Whole Wheat Country Bread, sliced 1-inch thick

1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese

Coarse Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1. Heat oven to 450. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Prepare butternut squash, then toss in a bowl with 3 tbsp olive oil, chile flakes, and 2 tsp salt. Transfer squash to prepared baking sheet, then roast in oven until soft – about 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add vinegar and syrup and reduce heat slightly. Cook, stirring, until mixture is very soft and jammy.

3. Remove the squash from the oven, and pile the onion mixture on top of the squash, still on the baking sheet. Smash squash and onions together with the back of a fork and roughly combine.

4. Toast your bread – if it’s too thick for the toaster, put it in the oven on broil for a couple minutes.

5. Spread ricotta on toasts in a thick layer, then pile on the squash/onion mixture. Sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve hot.

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Balsamic Caramelized Onion Hummus

Oh man, you guys. I have been soo busy lately! Being in clinical 5 days a week, doing homework on top of that, applying for jobs, working out, cooking, blogging, cleaning, and visiting family out of town makes a girl a little exhausted. I’m so close to being done university though (less than a month!) so I’m really trying to power through it.

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I have exciting news… My brother and sister in law welcomed a brand new baby boy last Wednesday. They live pretty far from here, so I won’t get to meet the little guy for a while, but he is so adorable and I am so excited to cuddle him! This is not my first time being an auntie (I have a 9 year old nephew, a 6 year old niece, and a 10 month old niece) and my sister is actually expecting a baby in a week as well, but literally nothing makes me happier than new babies. Thankfully I have a ginormous family and will probably spend my career working with newborns, so I won’t have to have 15 of my own.

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Do you guys pack your lunches for work? I’m usually pretty good with them because I generally have an endless supply of freezer leftovers, but I’m always having to remind myself to pack my veggies. I try so hard to love vegetables and make sure that I get enough in my diet (I put spinach/kale in smoothies, roast vegetables, make stir fries) but I will never be one of those people who enjoys eating endless amounts of raw veggies. In order to force myself into doing it anyways, I need to have a dip. Seriously. I’m kind of childish like that.

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Hummus is my dip of choice, mainly because of the protein and the endless variations I can create. Or make that, could create. I went a little heavy on the almond butter and hummus a couple weeks ago and burnt out the motor in my food processor. It was very sad. But lesson learned, next time I will not be cheap and buy the small version. Also, I will let it rest between recipes.

I made this recipe because it’s a little different from any other that I’ve tried, and also I have a minor obsession with caramelized onions (I looove them). If I’m being honest, I’m not usually a huge fan of balsamic vinegar – but I really did like it in this! Oh, and by the way, those Sweet Potato Wheat Thins are the best. Try them.

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(RIP)

Balsamic Caramelized Onion Hummus:

Adapted from Once Upon a Cutting Board

Makes a large jar

1 tbsp Butter

1 small Yellow Onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup + 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar, divided

1 1/2 tsp Brown Sugar

1 can (19 fl. oz) Garbanzo Beans (chick peas)

3 tbsp liquid reserved from can

3 tbsp Tahini

1 clove Garlic

2 tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice

1/2 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Black Pepper

1. Heat butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and stir to coat. Spread onions out evenly across the pan and let cook, stirring about every 3-4 minutes, until softened and golden brown, about 20-30 minutes total.  In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add 1 teaspoon brown sugar and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and stir to coat.  Once they are caramelized to your liking, remove from pan.  Save a small amount of onions to top the hummus later, if desired.  Add the rest to the large bowl of a food processor.

2. Reserve 3 tbsp of the liquid from your can of garbanzo beans and drain the rest, rinsing the beans well. Add the garbanzo beans, liquid from the can, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar, salt, and pepper to the bowl of your food processor (along with the caramelized onions).  Process until smooth.  Taste and adjust any ingredients, if necessary.

3. To make the balsamic reduction, add 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and let simmer until reduced to a thick, syrupy liquid, about 1-2 tablespoons worth.  Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Serve hummus topped with reserved caramelized onions and balsamic reduction, or blend all ingredients and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Soup

I’ve decided that every month this year, I am going to add a new healthy habit to my life. Not necessarily to do with my immediate physical health, but I guess my overall well-being. Every day for 30 (or 31) days, I will dedicate myself to this habit. After that month, I am hoping that it will become part of a healthier lifestyle, something that I do naturally or without totally dreading it. I’m probably going to exclude June and July since I will be travelling for the majority of those months, but maybe I could think of something creative. At the beginning of each month, I will announce what I will be doing, and I encourage you to try as well! Let me know if you have any ideas.

For January, I am currently doing what I anticipate will be the hardest of all of the “healthy habits”. I am currently on Day 11/30 of 30 days of running. I got the idea from a friend of parents, and I am currently forcing one of my best friends, Shelby, to do it with me. All that it requires me to do is run, for at least 30 minutes, 30 days in a row. I can do it outside, on a track inside, or on a treadmill. If I feel like it, I can go for longer. I try not to pay attention to my speed, but just focus on running. I’ve mostly been going outside, since the weather has been surprisingly mild around here lately. I’m using the Nike+ app to track my runs and share them with Shelby.

I am hoping that at the end of 30 days, running will be something that I actually (kind of) enjoy. I don’t expect to go every single day after this month, but I am hoping that 4 or 5 days will become a habit for me. At this point, running every day is starting to become a routine, and I don’t totally hate it, so I think I’m heading in the right direction! If you are considering trying this, remember that the first week is totally the hardest.

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Now that we are totally off topic, I present to you – Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Soup. This recipe popped into my head because I had no idea what to make for supper and not very many groceries. I was craving something with mushrooms, and because I am myself, I obviously decided on soup. Except I didn’t want that creamy, Campbell’s type soup that everyone is always looking for. My memories of that soup are not positive, because like I have said, I was the pickiest child on the planet.

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Think of this soup as the beautiful, flavourful child of French Onion Soup and Campbell’s Mushroom Soup. Maybe that seems weird. But trust me, it is delicious and those caramelized onions will have your house smelling SO goooood. The slow cooking of both the onions and the mushrooms really bring out their sweet, robust flavours, and you hardly need anything else in this soup. Which makes it incredibly easy AKA my fave.

Oh, and you see that fancy little biscuit on the side? Just wait. You will be learning about those little guys very soon.

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Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Soup

Serves 2 (or 4 as a side) 

Adapted from: The Hidden Pantry and Humblebee and Me

3 tbsp Butter

1 tbsp Sesame Oil

1 large Onion, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thinly

1 pound Mushrooms, sliced (any variety)

2 cloves Garlic, minced

2 tbsp All Purpose Flour

1/2 tsp Salt

1 tsp Dried Thyme (or 1 tbsp Fresh Thyme, if you have it)

1 litre/4 cups of Vegetable or Chicken Broth

2 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice

1. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir occasionally for 10-15 minutes, until soft, deeply caramel in colour, and very sweet smelling. Remove from heat.

2. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add in the sesame oil and allow to heat, then add sliced mushrooms. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until they are tender and lightly golden in colour. Add minced garlic to the mushroom mixture, and sauté for another 2 minutes.

3. Add the mushroom/garlic mixture to the saucepan with the caramelized onions. Add in 2 tbsp of flour and combine to coat the mixture. Add in thyme and salt and stir to combine. Turn on heat to a medium. Add in 750 ml of vegetable or chicken broth. Pour the other 250 ml into the skillet that you used to cook the mushrooms and stir it around for a bit, making sure you get all of the dark, sweet stuff that is stuck to the pan (deglaze the pan), then pour this in with the rest of the soup.

4. Bring the soup to a boil, then decrease heat to a simmer and let cook for at least 20 minutes. Before serving, add in 2 tsp fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, with fresh bread and butter, or a biscuit*.

* You could also serve this similarly to french onion soup. Heat oven to a broil, pour the soup into oven-safe bowls, top with sliced baguette and swiss or asiago cheese. Put the soup into the oven for about 2 minutes, until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly.

Grilled Cheese with Aged White Cheddar and Caramelized Onions

Isn’t it amazing how food has such a way of making everything better? At least for me. Granted, my life isn’t terrible by any means, but it is SO cold and I just really don’t want to write the essay that I need to write, ya know? I came home for lunch and whipped this baby up and BOOM. Instant happy. Ready to greet the rest of the day.

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It’s no secret that grilled cheese sandwiches are among my favorite foods (which I apparently have a lot of… oops!). While classic grilled cheeses are delicious, and well… classic, I am a huge fan of gourmet-ish combinations. Something about that melted, ooey, gooey cheese combined with pretty much anything gets me going.

I bought some aged white cheddar cheese last week and have been dreaming up sandwiches since. Today was the day. I am so pleased. I present to you, Grilled Cheese with Aged White Cheddar and Caramelized Onions.

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Grilled Cheese with Aged White Cheddar and Caramelized Onions

2 slice Multigrain Bread (I love all of the Silver Hills Bakery breads – today I used The Kings Bread)

2 thick slices Aged White Cheddar

1 Yellow Onion, sliced thinly

1 tbsp Butter

1. Spray a small frying pan with non-stick spray and add onions. Cook over medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft, light brown, and very fragrant. Set aside.

2. Lightly butter one side of each slice of bread.

3. Place one slice of bread, buttered side down, in frying pan (still over medium heat). Top with cheese and caramelized onions, and add other slice of bread – buttered side up.

4. Cook on each side until golden brown – about three minutes.

5. Slice in half, and eat immediately.

On a side note, do you guys watch New Girl? It’s one of my favorite shows, and last weeks was hilarious, as always. I’ve been watching one scene over and over. A restaurant owner calls Jess gorgeous, and this is her response… “HA! (weird faces & belching sounds) No! That’s crazy! That ain’t real! That’s dumb, that’s straight dumb, you’re dumb — you’re nice — you excited for the holidays? I am,” So relatable!