butternut squash soup with gruyere croutons

firstly, I can't take credit for this photo. it's by the amazing Deb of Smitten Kitchen - my absolute favorite food blog. I stalk her blog every time I'm making a grocery shopping list and need some new inspiration. I have raved about this recipe on more than one occasion. I could tell you how great it is ,or how I'd really eat it everyday, or how each time I've made it I proclaim, "this soup is amazing", or how it's the best soup I've ever made... but that wouldn't even begin to explain how amazingly good this soup is. the nuttiness of squash combined with the smoky flavor of cumin topped off with the ever amazing earthy, creamy flavor of Gruyère cheese... oooo la la.
it's a rainy, cold day in Portland and I'm dreaming of soup. this soup got me through Winter. so even though most of you are suffering from the heat wave that is covering most of the country, live like it's Fall or Winter and smell the cumin through the computer screen.

Butternut Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons
adapted from Deb's recipe, originally adapted from Bon Appetite

:: for soup ::
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/4 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 1/4 tsp minced fresh sage
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 cup whipping cream

• melt butter in large pot over medium heat. add onion and garlic and saute until tender, about 10 minutes.
• add broth, squash and herbs; bring to boil.
• reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash is very tender, about 30 minutes.
• working in batches, puree soup in blender. return soup to same pot.
• stir in cream; bring to simmer. season with salt and pepper.

can be made 1 day ahead. chill. rewarm over medium heat before serving.

:: for croutons ::
4 cups cubed bread slices
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 tsp minced fresh sage
2 tbsp olive oil

• preheat broiler.
• arrange bread cubes on baking sheet.
• drizzle olive oil over top of cubes. toss with hands.
sprinkle cheese, then thyme and sage over bread cubes.
• broil until golden, about 1 minute. re-arrange cubes and broil for about 1 minute more.

• ladle soup into bowls and top with croutons. grate an additional amount of cheese on top if desired.

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big, fat, chewy chocolate chip cookies

ok ok... I know I've been a bit MIA for the past week, but with all the work that's been taking over my body, I had little time to talk about food. oh I cooked it, and I baked it. and I even photographed quite a bit of it... but to actually have time to write about it just didn't happen.
so here's the thing. I'm not a chocolate person. don't get me wrong, I really enjoy a big chunk of dark chocolate or a fat, chewy caramel covered in milk chocolate just as much as the next person, but when it comes down to it, I'd prefer something else. like some other type of sugary goodness. that being said, I'm not normally a chocolate chip cookie baker. and even more, I'm not normally a chocolate chip cookie baker TWO weekends in a row. seriously, they are that good. and definitely worth taking a break from working to eat a cookie or two... or three.

Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
recipe from AllRecipes.com via smitten kitchen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips - {I only use 1 1/2 cups}

• preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
• sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. in a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.
• beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.
• stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. drop rounded balls of cookie dough, about a spoonful at a time, onto the prepared cookie sheets. cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
• bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

• once cookies have cooled completely, smash about a 1/4 cup of vanilla ice cream in the middle of two cookies for a delightful summer treat.

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