Autumn Chowder [and remembering at the table]

Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser

It’s a Wednesday night. We’re on the homestretch after a day filled with toddler laughs and toys strewn on the floor, naptime snuggles and pleas to share. I pull out the giant soup pot I inherited from my mom. That pot has seen gallons of homemade spaghetti sauce, wild rice soup, and our perpetual favorite, Autumn Chowder. I place it on the stove, turn on the heat, and start frying chopped bacon and sauteing an onion. The potatoes, carrots, and corn get dumped in next, followed by broth, milk, and loads of cheese. It’s hearty, rich, and full of the flavors of fall—quintessential comfort food.

I think of my mom while I stir, and soon I’m back in her kitchen. The fan above her stove hums, and the smell of bacon wafts through the house. She wears a stained apron and holds a wooden spoon in her hand. She stirs up magic in that pot. Dishes cover the kitchen island, alongside the skins of onions and trimmings from carrots. Our excitement grows as dinnertime nears. The “First Making of Autumn Chowder” felt like a special occasion, despite usually occurring on an average weeknight amidst soccer practice and algebra homework. We set bowls and soup spoons on the table—the table always adorned with one of my mom’s seasonal tablecloths—and shuffle to fold napkins, fill glasses, and find our seats.

I pull myself out of the memory and back into my own kitchen. Dirty dishes balance in a precarious stack next to the sink, and the squeals of three kids fill our ears. Our table sits bare. I rarely use a tablecloth, and attempting to set out dishes and utensils in advance seems useless with a one-year-old who constantly climbs on said table. But my stovetop fan hums a familiar tune, and the savory aroma of onions and bacon smells like memories that make me tear up—although I blame it on the pesky alliums.

It’s been five years since she died, and I notice her absence most when I’m cooking. Yet somehow it feels like the act of chopping vegetables and melting cheese keeps her alive.

Keep reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs.

Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser
Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser
Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser
Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser
Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser

Read the full essay and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs.

Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!]

Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser

Last year about this time, a few friends hosted a shower to celebrate the birth of our third. I gave birth to him in July, but with summer schedules and newborn exhaustion, we decided to wait until the fall for a baby shower—and I loved it!

Celebrating three months into his life forced me to stop and practice gratitude in a way I couldn’t necessarily do during pregnancy. It allowed me to step away from the diapers and spit-up and appointments. It created space to gather with friends and family and look back on what God gave us in this sweet, little boy—while still looking forward to his life ahead.

My friends know me well, too, because that evening, they made it a point to serve home-cooked food and sit around the table together. We passed baskets of bread, poured glasses of wine, and savored spoonfuls of soup. We chatted and laughed, talked about birth stories, and commiserated with each other about sleepless nights. I remember thinking how grateful I was for my new son and the loved ones who took the time to celebrate him with me. What a gift.

Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser

My friend who hosted my baby shower ladled soups into small glass jars. I thought it was a great idea, and it made it easy for people to try both soups she offered that night. Not only do jars work well for serving smaller portions to a group, but it makes it easy to snag a cup for lunch to go alongside a salad or sandwich.

This Butternut Squash Soup is dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo, and Whole30, so it works for all kinds of diets! You can also omit or serve the bacon on the side for a vegan option. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon
Yields about 10 cups

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 medium apples, cored and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
3 ½-4 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
⅓ cup full fat coconut milk (from a can, not a coconut milk beverage)
8-12 ounces bacon
2-3 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and apples, and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for another 4-6 minutes until the onions are translucent.

Add the white wine vinegar, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 1 more minute. (Add about ¼ cup of stock if the mixture starts to stick to the bottom of the pot.)

Pour in the broth and add the squash. Turn the heat to medium-high, cover, and bring to a boil. The reduce the heat to low and simmer (covered) until the squash is tender, about 20-25 minutes.

While the soup cooks, fry the bacon until crisp, and chop into small pieces.

Turn the heat off the soup. Stir in the coconut milk. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, allow soup to cool for a bit and then transfer to a regular blender in batches to puree.

Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to bowls for serving. Top with crisp bacon pieces and chopped rosemary. Enjoy!

Note: This pairs really well with Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary!

Slow Cooker Curry Stew with Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes + Kale

Slow Cooker Curry Stew with Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser

My eating habits over the past couple weeks have been less than stellar. As much as I try to eat clean most of the time, some weeks all of that falls to the wayside. I'm especially susceptible to temptation when I'm running errands with the kids, and the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru is just too easy. Or when I taste-test a few too many waffles and pancakes in the name of "recipe development." Or when the kids poop in the tub, you're not home, and your husband ends up scrubbing said tub and two poop-covered toddlers. And then afterwards, he needs feel-good comfort food, so you give in to take-out from Portillo's.

(By the time I came home, he had everything and everyone completely cleaned up. But of course, I couldn't have him eat cheese fries all by himself. Also, maybe I shouldn't talk about poop on a food blog? Oops.)

Slow Cooker Curry Stew with Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser

Needless to say, my body isn't loving my recent food decisions. As much as I love to cook, there are plenty of days when it doesn't happen - and this week included a few too many of those days. But, I'm not going to sulk and feel guilty about it. 1. Because Chick-Fil-A waffle fries and homemade pancakes soaked in orange-bourbon syrup are totally worth it. And 2. That was last week.

Slow Cooker Curry Stew with Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser

Today is a new day, and it's time for me to get back on track. This slow-cooker curry stew is the perfect way to do that. It's vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and almost Whole30 compliant (just sub the chickpeas for more potatoes or other vegetables to make it a W30 recipe). You can also easily change up the vegetables to use what you have on hand. Sub white potatoes for sweet potatoes. Toss in a bag of spinach instead of kale, or add broccoli florets that need to be used up.

Slow Cooker Curry Stew with Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser

So even if you have a rough day with the kiddos, and you end up spending the evening cleaning who-knows-what, you've got a hearty, comforting, clean meal ready to go. 

Of course, no judgment here if you need a few cheese fries, too. 

Slow Cooker Curry Stew with Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes + Kale
Adapted from The Kitchn
Yields about 8 servings

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 Tablespoon kosher salt, divided
1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
2 Tablespoons curry powder
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth, divided
2 (15.5 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 (5 ounce) bag kale (or a few big handfuls of chopped kale)
1 (13-14 ounce) can coconut milk

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (a Dutch oven would also work) over medium heat. Add the diced onion and 1 teaspoon of the salt, and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and 1 more teaspoon of salt. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the curry powder, ginger, garlic, and cayenne pepper (if using) to the pan. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in 2-3 tablespoons of the vegetable broth, and scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan.*

Pour the onion, potatoes, spices, and all the liquid from the skillet into the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker. Add the rest of the broth, the chickpeas, bell peppers, tomatoes, black pepper, and the last teaspoon of salt. Give everything a good stir. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 3 ½ - 4 hours, or until the potatoes are tender. 

Stir in the kale and the can of coconut milk. Replace the lid and allow cook about 10 minutes more, until the kale is wilted. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!

*Note: I have made this recipe by completely skipping the sautéing step, omitting the olive oil, and just tossing the raw onion, potatoes, and spices directly into the slow cooker. It does work and the recipe will still taste good, so that’s an option if you want to cut down on prep time. However, I highly suggest taking the extra few minutes to sauté the onions, potatoes and spices. You’ll get a richer, sweeter, and more flavorful finished dish.

"Creamy" Celery + Potato Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Creamy Celery + Potato Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

You know those recipes that require you buy an entire bunch, can, jar or bag of something, and then you only need a tiny amount of that particular ingredient? That drives me crazy. Take tomato paste, for example. Almost every recipe I use with tomato paste calls for just a tablespoon or two, but then I’m left with almost a whole can. Fortunately, a lot of canned leftovers can be frozen so I don’t end up wasting it…but fresh ingredients pose more of a challenge.

Like celery. I always seem to be scrambling to figure out ways to use leftover celery. It’s not like you can freeze it (or can you? I’ve never tried, but that sounds weird to me), and there are only so many celery sticks I can stand to eat at a time. After making a batch of chicken salad a few weeks ago that required a few stalks of celery, I was determined to find a way to save the rest of bunch before it met its moldy demise. 

Creamy Celery + Potato Soup with Crispy Prosciutto
Creamy Celery + Potato Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Enter Celery + Potato Soup with Crispy Prosciutto. Ironically, I think I’ll be buying celery from now on for this recipe, and then using leftovers for all the other salads and such. This soup is even husband-approved. He’s not always the biggest fan of blended soups, especially when they’re comprised primarily of vegetables, but this one is creamy (without containing cream!), savory and incredibly flavorful. 

Creamy Celery + Potato Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Of course, even after the hubs and I taste-tested and approved, we decided we couldn’t resist adding a little pork to the mix. A crispy prosciutto topping gives the perfect salty crunch to complement the smooth blended soup. Add a drizzle of olive oil and you’ve got yourself a healthy, comforting (and Whole30 compliant!) dish.

What ingredients do you find yourself scrambling to use up? Have any tips for storing or using those lingering leftovers?

Creamy Celery + Potato Soup with Crispy Prosciutto
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Yields 10-12 cups

3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
5 cups diced celery (about 10 stalks)
1½ pounds red potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt (plus more to taste)
¼ teaspoon black pepper (plus more to taste)
4 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
¼ cup coconut milk

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the celery, onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions are softened. Add the potatoes, salt and pepper and cook about 10 minutes more, stirring frequently. 

Add the chicken stock and the bay leaves. Turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are tender. 

Turn off the heat and remove the bay leaves. Transfer the soup, in batches, to a blender and blend until smooth. (Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender.) 

Return the soup to the pot. Stir in the coconut milk and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Top with crispy prosciutto and a drizzle of olive oil. 

Crispy Prosciutto

Prosciutto slices (1-2 slices per serving)
Parchment paper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the prosciutto slices out on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until the color is slightly darkened.

Transfer the prosciutto to a paper towel lined plate to cool (it will get more crisp as it cools). Once cool, crumble it into small pieces. Serve on top of Creamy Celery + Potato Soup.