Dragonfly Home Recipes

Recipes, Photography, Musings

Month: December 2015

Butternut Squash Flatbread Pizza

With savory thyme, mellow butternut squash, and warm melted cheese, this flatbread pizza is perfect for lunch, or for dinner alongside a salad or a hearty bowl of soup. It only takes about a half hour to make, so it is a great option when you are short on time, but want something warm and satisfying.

butternut flatbread pizza with thymeI tend to go overboard in the late fall when buying squash.  The different colors and varieties all look so inviting, and I have so many plans and ideas for them.  Then when winter comes, I still have a couple of squash sitting elegantly on the counter in a pretty still-life, waiting to be used.  This flatbread pizza is a perfect way to use that squash before it’s too late, and it tastes so good, even the non-squash-lovers in your family will be surprised.  The health benefits of squash are well-known, and we can all use some extra potassium, fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and antioxidants.

The key is to cut the pieces of the squash small enough so they roast to tenderness while they are on the flatbread, thereby saving yourself that extra step of pre-roasting the squash before baking the pizza.  The sliced onion and the thyme really add a beautiful flavor, and blend so well with the mildness of the squash.  I like to use naan flatbread for these pizzas, which you can easily find at the grocery store.  That makes them quick to make, because sometimes time is scarce.

butternut flatbread pizzas with thyme 2Because our winter has been unusually mild so far, I was able to go out and find some thyme in our garden for this pizza.  I am always pleasantly amazed at how good fresh herbs smell, and how each one has such a distinct flavor.  I did a little research on thyme, since I like to add meaning to my food.  According to many sources, thyme historically symbolizes courage.  Greek soldiers used to bathe in water infused with thyme before battles, and medieval maidens embroidered thyme leaves on their knights’ cloaks for courage.  Thyme was also placed under pillows at night to keep nightmares away.

Another prevalent theme regarding thyme is that according to northern European folklore, fairies were often found sleeping in beds of wild thyme.  In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon, king of the fairies, tells where to find the queen of the fairies:  “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,/ Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,/Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,/With sweet musk-roses and elegantine.” When my kids were younger, we used to go around the yard looking for fairy houses. Little did we know, there might have been one in our herb garden. 🙂

I hope you all have a great weekend, and happy holidays! And if you need a little extra courage one day, tuck a sprig of thyme in your pocket.butternut flatbread pizza with thyme 3butternut flatbread pizza with squashbutternut flatbread pizza piecesI am taking this recipe over to Angie’ Fiesta Friday today, co-hosted this week by Caroline @ Caroline’s Cooking and Linda @ La Petite Paniere.

Butternut Squash Flatbread Pizza

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients:

  • 4 flatbreads (I like to use naan)
  • 2 cups of butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 of an onion, sliced thinly (yellow sweet or red onion)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 and 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I use mozzarella and Parmesan, but sharp cheddar would work too)
  • olive oil

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Peel and chop the butternut squash and slice the onion.  Lightly spread olive oil onto the pieces of flatbread.  Arrange the pieces of squash and slices of onion on the flatbreads.  Sprinkle with the thyme leaves.  Then sprinkle with the shredded cheese.  Place the pizzas on a baking sheet, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the cheese is melted. Serve alone as a light meal, or as a side dish with soup or salad. Enjoy!

 

 

Cherry Cranberry Smoothie

Bursting with flavor and color, this smoothie will pick you up and infuse you with vitality.  Tart cherries and cranberries are sweetened with a splash of cranberry juice, and a banana makes the texture thick and smooth.  With only four ingredients, this smoothie is a breeze to make, yet it tastes like a special treat.

cherry cranberry smoothie overviewTart cherries freeze beautifully, and I like to keep a bag or two of Montmorency tart cherries, grown right here in Michigan, in my freezer. Then I can pull them out throughout the year to make a cherry pie, or in today’s case, a smoothie.  With the cherries and the cranberries, this smoothie is loaded with antioxidants.  There has been a lot of press about the health benefits of tart cherries–that they help with arthritis, sleep, fighting cancer, and many other things.  Whether or not all the hype is a little over the top, I still believe cherries are good for us. Just a sip of this smoothie, and I know I am drinking in lots of good nutrients.  There is some sugar from the cranberry juice, but otherwise the cherries and cranberries are too tart for most people, and there is not a lot of juice in this smoothie–just enough.

cherry cranberry smoothie with berriesWith all the things going on surrounding the holidays, it is good to keep fortified with nutrients. The vibrant flavor and color will lift your spirits.  It is not always easy to keep up with all that is going on, and small treats help.  Stopping to drink a smoothie. Several deep breaths. A walk with a trusted friend. I hope you all have a great weekend!  I will be taking this over to Angie’s Fiesta Friday, co-hosted this week by Sadhna @ Herbs, Spices, and Traditions and Natalie @ Kitchen, uncorked.cherriescherry cranberry smoothie on baking sheetcherry cranberry smoothie with berries 2cherry cranberry smoothies against white 3

Cherry Cranberry Smoothie

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of frozen tart (preferably Montmorency tart) cherries
  • 1/2 cup of cranberries (frozen or refrigerated is fine)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 and 1/4 cups cranberry juice (I use one that is 27% juice, so it has some sugar in it, but not as much as some do)

Directions:

Place the cherries and cranberries in a blender.  Add the sliced banana and cranberry juice. Blend until smooth. Pour into four glasses. Serve with a straw. Enjoy!

 

Cozy Vegetable Soup

What tastes better than on a chilly evening than a bowl of hot soup? Not much! That must be why I am sharing another soup recipe here with you.  This vegetable-pasta soup is made from staples that many of us have on hand, and can be whipped up in a little over half an hour.  The flavor is mellow and comforting, and it is basic enough to appeal to a wide range of people with varying tastes (including, and especially, kids).  This soup actually reminds me of the vegetable soup my mom used to serve to my brothers and me (and any neighborhood kids who happened to be over that day) after we had been out playing in the cold.

vegetable pasta soup on bench 4This is a recipe that I have developed over the years, based on many variations of minestrone and vegetable soups.  I add lots of pasta to help make it filling, and keep the vegetables very basic, so it is a crowd-pleaser.  The broth is so wonderful–a blend of chicken broth, tomatoes, and garlic make is savory without being overpowering.

vegetable pasta soup overview 1My son had a friend over this past weekend, and the boys, my daughter, my husband and I were outside a good portion of the day, riding bikes, tromping through the woods, and throwing stones into the lake.  The kids collected treasures like snail shells and old, abandoned fishing bobbers. The weather was unusually warm and sunny for December, and we all took full advantage of it.  But when it got dark, it got dark fast, and it got cold.  This vegetable soup (served with pieces of flatbread pizza) was a perfect way to warm up and talk about the adventures of the day.

vegetable pasta soup on tableSometimes there is something almost magical that happens when people share a meal together.  For me, it often happens after everyone has been outside for awhile, and often when we are welcoming those to our table who aren’t usually there, and especially when we are not in a hurry.  The food does not need to be fancy or elaborate–just tasty and warm, and lovingly prepared.  As we head into the heart of winter, I hope to have more evenings like this, with comforting food, lively conversation, and sparkling lights in the darkness.

I have read two articles recently about how people in the Scandinavian countries embrace winter in all its cold, dark beauty.  They dress warmly, enjoy outdoor activities, and gather together to eat, drink, and talk by candlelight or around a roaring fire.  Apparently, the Danish term “hygge” describes this feeling of coziness. I hope to experience more hygge this winter, like we did this past weekend, and I hope to learn to cultivate the art of creating it and embracing it.  Best wishes of the same to all of you–warmth in the cold, and lights in the darkness.  Have a great week!vegetable pasta soup in white bowl

Cozy Vegetable Soup

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely sliced
  • 7 and 1/2 cups of chicken broth (use vegetable broth if you want to make it vegetarian)
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (if Idon’t have fresh, I use 3-4 canned San Marzano tomatoes, chopped)
  • approximately 6-8 ounces (depending on how hearty you want the soup to be) of bite-sized pasta (I like to use orecchiette)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh parsley

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.  Cook the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes, or until the onion gets soft. Stir in the carrots, celery, broth, and tomato paste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and let the soup simmer gently for about 30 minutes.  Then, stir in the tomatoes and pasta and simmer until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with parsley.  Enjoy!

Lemon Spinach Soup

 

In the midst of the wonderful excesses of holiday eating, it feels good to take a break and make a soup made with pure, cleansing ingredients like lemon and spinach.  This soup is simple, yet the flavor combination of lemon and spinach is glorious.  And we all need the infusion of vitamins and iron that spinach gives, especially at this time of year.

lemon spinach soup with pot and bowl 3I had some lemons left over from making my daughter’s lemon birthday cake (with lemon frosting!), and was looking for a way to use them.  Because I have been craving something deep green and full of nutrients, I came across this delicious recipe for lemon spinach soup, adapted from the charming cookbook “Hollyhocks & Radishes” by Bonnie Stewart Mickelson.  The broth in this soup is so good, I could sip it all by itself! The addition  of the spinach, carrots, and celery make it even better, and the lemon is just lovely.

food for lemon spinach soupLemons are one of my favorite things to cook and bake with in the colder months, because they are so cheerful and invigorating at a time when we are a little short on sunshine. (I would have done a post with the recipe for my daughter’s lemon cake with lemon frosting, but as I was in the midst of preparing for her birthday party, I was too distracted to take any photos. Maybe I’ll have to make it again!)

lemon spinach soup in bowl 4Anyway, soup is so good for the soul.  It is warming and soothing, infusing the body with physical and spiritual sustenance.  Making soup is very relaxing for me, because I love the way each new ingredient changes the mixture, and it is peaceful to have it simmering on the stove as I work.  This is such a busy time of year, and it is important to take some time to do something healing and relaxing, so you can calm yourself and not end up driving everyone around you crazy (not that I would know anything about that! :)).  I absolutely love holiday baking, and there will be some more of that to come on this blog, but sometimes I crave a good, nutrient-rich meal that offers comfort and a boost of energy.

If you are looking for a refreshing, invigorating way to help balance the excesses of the holidays, I highly recommend this soup. And I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I am joining Angie at Fiesta Friday this week, co-hosted by Johanne @ French Gardener Dishes and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons. It has been awhile since I have had a chance to look at what my fellow bloggers have been up to, so I look forward to catching up! lemon spinach soup in bowl 1

Lemon Spinach Soup

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients:

  • 8 cups of chicken broth
  • 3 small carrots (or 2 medium-sized), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
  • 3/4 to 1 pound of fresh spinach
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large pot, bring 7 of the 8 cups of chicken broth to a boil.  Add the carrots and celery, and simmer for about 3-5 minutes, or until just tender.  While the vegetables are simmering, wash the spinach and tear it into bite-sized pieces.  Add the spinach to the soup and simmer gently until just-tender, about 3-5 minutes, trying not to over-cook it.

While the spinach is simmering, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the flour with a whisk and cook for one minute.  Whisk in the reserved cup of chicken broth, and stir until smooth.  Add this to the soup pot when the spinach is ready, and simmer, stirring as the liquid thickens.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks and lemon juice together.  Stir the mixture into the soup pot until well combined.

Heat the soup to the point of almost boiling, then turn it off.  (Don’t boil it, or it will curdle).  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!