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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Soapy suds and random thoughts

Image - Google Images
Despite having lived in my house for eight years now, I hadn't embraced the Jacuzzi in the master bathroom until recently. I don't mean to imply that I haven't enjoyed it at all; it is just that now I have started to enjoy it to the point of wanting to soak in it all day.
              It started with a recent particularly stressful week ending on a good note. I was so relieved at the positive turn of events and was planning on cuddling with a good book and some wine in bed (happens when husband is in India) when my eyes fell upon the spa kit I had received as a gift from my him for our wedding anniversary.
 When I looked at the bath soap in the kit and read its description I was sold on taking a bath. It invited its user to take a long bath in its luxurious rejuvenating oils. I am not sure anyone could refuse that.
  Once the bath was ready, I turned on the music and some candles and got in. In a few minutes, I had forgotten my problems, and just listened to the music playing. 
While I may have left my troubles behind, the one thing I did bring into the tub with me was a bath bomb. Watching it whirl around and dissolve in the tub reminded of my whirlwind trip to India and UK back in May. I had purchased the bath bomb in the little gift shop of the Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire, England. It was a glorious day in a most memorable seven week adventure. I remember walking down the cobbled streets that day with my sister, soaking in the beauty of the quaint English village. Small stores with window boxes bursting with beautiful flowers dotted the streets.  My sister and I even went to a tea room to enjoy some English Tea. The Cathedral itself was breathtaking.
        As such wonderful thoughts were whirling through my brain; Miley Cyrus’s ‘Party in the USA’ song came along.  With lyrics like, “So I put my hands up,
They're playing my song,
And the butterflies fly away
I'm noddin' my head like yeah
Movin' my hips like yeah
I got my hands up,
They're playin' my song
I know I'm gonna be OK
Yeah, it's a party in the USA
Yeah, it's a party in the USA” I started thinking about my own journey of coming to the USA in 1997. I remember the anxious plane ride from India. Dreams and hopes and the uncertainty of it all had played over and over in my mind during the 27 hour plane ride. I look back and wonder if I would have done things differently. And the answer is a no. Despite all its ups and downs, it has definitely been a party in the USA.
      The Mumford and Son “I will wait” song came on next and I played air banjo to it and wondered what it would like to be a professional banjo player. It took the knock on the bathroom door and the “mom!! Are you awake?” for me to force myself out of the bath and quietly let my random thoughts and the soapy suds drain away. 
      I usually share a recipe with my posts and I have tried hard to think of what I made for dinner that night but all I remember is what I have already shared with you.

Thrifty Throw Down: Sausage and Pasta.

$7.00 total to feed a family of four.

     Radhika (fellow blogger) posted a recipe on here a couple weeks ago about a meal she threw together with stuff around the house and the fact she didn't make it from scratch but it did its job feeding her family and making them happy. I replied to that post and told her it is often in life when you just don't have the time or the money to get creative or spend a couple hours whipping up a masterpiece. And your kids? They don't care, they just want to eat something good.
     Last night - my oldest worked his part time job until 9pm and I didn't bring home my youngest until 7pm, after football practice. The wife has a cold and was in bed. So, I made one of my Pasta Roni treats. Quick, cheap, and tasty!
     Once every month or so when I don't have a lot of time I will bust these simple little dishes out and the kids always gobble it up. Our local markets (and assume, yours) always have Pasta Roni on sale, usually only a $1 a box. My market also usually has Hillshire Farms sausage links on sale, avg. price 2 for $5, when on sale. Your grand total for a family of four = $7.00. Prep time = 5 minutes. Cook time = 15 minutes. Taste level = Excellent.
     You can use just about anything you want with these types of foods. Pasta Roni has a variety of side pastas and Hillshire Farm, a variety of meats. My go to meal when I'm going this route is usually chicken alfredo (alfredo noodles by Pasta Roni and a 4pk of chicken breasts). That whopper of a delicious meal is only an extra $3, for a grand total of $10. Thrifty throw down? You bet.

1. - 2 Boxes of Pasta Roni (4 cheese corkscrew pasta) - cook as instructed on box, less 1/3 the water and 1/4 the milk. Because you are combining the 2 boxes, you do not need as much as suggested.

2. - 1 & 1/2  Hillshire Farm Beef sausage links. Slice up sausage and cook in pan for 5 minutes, tossing to grill evenly.
(Store the other half in fridge to have with eggs, or crackers, or by itself in near future).

Enjoy. Feeds a family of 4-5.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Burr it's Getting Chili Out

Fall is in the air here in Chicagoland and it is getting chilly out!  And fall makes me think of roasting marshmallows, leaves changing, bonfires and of course chili!  In the Clarke house chili is something that we can all agree on, even our 10 year old daughter Maddy.

I was recently checking out a post from someone out on Facebook and they had the "official" Wendy's chili recipe posted.  Interestingly enough mine is VERY close to it and I feel like I have been making it longer than they have; and frankly it is my mom's recipe so it is REALLY old!  HaHa mom... love you!

Let's start with the fixings...

Included in this picture is-
  • 2 pounds of 80/20 ground beef and 1 pound of 90/10 ground beef.  I like to use two kinds due to the amount of fat in each
  • Two kinds of beans, light and dark kidney beans (Why two? Mom did it that way!)
  • One whole green pepper and one whole yellow onion
  • Fire roasted tomatoes diced (two cans)
  • One whole can of tomato juice
  • Salt, black pepper, ancho chili powder and garlic powder
I finely chop my onions and peppers.  I find if they are small enough you get a little in each bite and more importantly the kids don't notice them as much!  That is sometimes the key, make it small enough not to be identified so no complaining!
Saute onions and peppers till soft and add your beef and a layer of each of the spices directly to the meat.

You might ask how much I added... well I have no idea!  At this stage I am creating a layer flavor, and making sure my meat has that chili taste as well as the beefy taste.  I will add the same spices when I pour in the juice, beans and tomatoes.  So taste the meat when it is browned, if you over spice it and back down on the spices later.  Under seasoned then add more when you add the rest of the ingredients.  It is all about your taste and your preferences.  Taste, taste and taste... that is the key.  

After the meat is browned take the water/fat out and add your tomato juice and tomatoes.  Drain your beans and give them a little rinse and put them in the pot.  Shake in more of each of the spices and let it cook on low for a good hour to develop the flavor.  Taste along the way and adjust the seasoning.

We like our chili with something crunchy...

We served it with good chips with cheddar and jack cheese melted on them... excellent for dipping and crunching.  It also gives the kids something else to concentrate on besides the chili. 

A few days later we like to do a little twist with cornbread.  Grab a good cornbread box mix.  We use Trader Joe's cornbread mix as it is AMAZING and easy and quick.  It has corn kernels in it and has a good slight sweet flavor to it.  Make the cornbread according to the box and select the appropriate pan according to the box directions.  Spray the whole pan with your favorite non-stick spray and ladle in your leftover chili in the bottom; top it with your cornbread mixture and bake according to the package.

Everyone in our house LOVES this dish.  I can almost taste it now... well actually all I can taste is Sour Patch Kids that I am eating which are supposed to go to the trick or treaters!!  I better go grab some for lunch!

Happy Halloween from The Clarke's!


Boo-licious Bites.

The ending of fall, with dew decorated mornings and fog lit nights, is a time to cuddle up with the loved ones. It’s a time to watch late night scary movies and fall asleep in each others arms. And of couse, it’s a good time to eat. 

Halloween. I smile just typing the word.
Eat? Well we all know this holiday brings out the candy and the baked goods. And of course, Halloween is the biggest party month of the year. The one time of the year you can be whatever you want to be and no one judges. And if you’re lucky, eat whatever crap your stomach can handle.

Robyn invited me and the wife to a special Halloween themed dinner at her place this year. I decided to make something sweet for the occasion. I bought a Halloween cook book years ago at a flea market but have never used it. I flipped through it and found a few things I liked and this particular recipe called for easy ingredients and quick cook time. Sounded good to me. 

My wife loves peanut butter and chocolate, another reason I picked this. Set it up, cooked it, shaped it and knocked this baby out in less than 20 minutes, total. These are not exactly pretty to look at, but they tatse fantasic. Once I told people what they were at the party, they tried them. Once they tried them, they were devoured. 

Bonus factor on this recipe: 
$10 in ingredients gets you up to 5 dozen of these bool-licious treats.

Next week, if all goes well - I’ll have another Halloween recipe for you. Enjoy.


1.  - 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick) or margarine.
2.  - 3 cups miniature marshmallows.
3. - 1/4 cup light corn syrup.
4. - 1/2 creamy peanut butter.
5. - 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
6. - 4 1/2 cups of crisp rice cereal.
7. -  Line a couple cookie sheets with wax paper.

Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows, stir constantly until melted.
Remove from heat. Add corn syrup, stir until well blended.
Put pan back to  low heat and add peanut butter and chocolate chips, stir until all is melted and well blended.
Remove from heat and turn off fire.
Add cereal and stir until well blended, folding over and over to get them all to stick nicely and evenly.
Cool for few minutes.
Run your faucet on low water and lightly wet your hands. With wet hands, shape and mold the mix into balls about 1 1/2 inch round. Place balls on cookie sheets. 
Store in a covered container in a cool place until ready to serve.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Upside Down Chicken Pot Pie

Pot pie with rice, beans and chicken
I started a post last night wherein I wanted to share a recipe for garlic knots and some thoughts about the workplace. But for whatever reason, I was unusually tired and about a paragraph into the post I had placed the laptop on my bedside table and fallen fast asleep. I went back to the post tonight to review it and finish it but it just doesn't feel like the night to share that post. It will just have to wait till the time feels right. 
             Today and tonight were all about chicken. What began as innocent teasing and calling a friend a 'chicken', turned my day upside down. It was a very busy day at work to begin with a lot of to do items weighing on my mind. But this 'chicken' conversation added another item to my list. All of a sudden chicken was all I could think of and I wanted to rush home and make an upside down chicken potpie for dinner. It is ironic that the very mention of chicken is driving me crazy enough to want chicken right away, considering that I was staunch vegetarian for the first half of this year. I wonder what happened to the vegetarian in me? Being a carnivore, I probably I ate her. Sigh! And in case you were wondering, I did not rush home right away but stayed at work and did manage to finish most if not all of my work related items. 
          Once I had left work and picked up my sons from school, I rushed to the rotisserie aisle of my local grocery store to pick up the chicken. I hope I did not shock the fellow shoppers as I stood there staring at and drooling over the chicken. I am surprised I had enough control to not rip apart the container it came in and eat the chicken in the parking lot after I had left the store.   
I got home, put on my apron, washed my hands and began the wonderful task of taking the skin off and shredding the chicken. It really is one of my secret pleasures. As I shredded and ate the chicken I realized that I did not have the cream cheese the recipe below called for. Honestly though, I wanted my potpie to have rice, beans and veggies in it. So I did just that.
          However, two years ago when I made this pie, I had followed the recipe I have shared below, word for word and cannot say enough good things about it. And being someone who is yet to learn the art of measuring as I add ingredients to my dishes, a set in stone recipe will be very hard to come by, at least tonight. I am trying to get better about measuring ingredients as I add them and hopefully by the next time I tease a friend the urge hits me for this potpie I will be really good at measuring and keeping track of what I have added. I think it will be wonderful if I can get to a point where I have recipes I can pass down to my kids and be a little less like my mom in that one aspect (sorry amma!).
        Joy, the author of the recipe below says in her post to make this for a hungry husband so he will want to marry you again. This was so true of the last time I made it. My husband fell in love with my cooking me a little bit more that evening

Recipe Source: Joy the Baker

Makes one 9×13-inch dish  with 12 biscuits

For the Biscuits:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 to 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper (depending on how spicy you like your biscuits)

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes

4 ounces (half of a brick) cream cheese, cold

3/4 cup buttermilk, cold

For the Filling:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups whole milk

4 ounces (half of a brick) cream cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

3 cups shredded chicken meat

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 cup thinly diced carrots

1 cup diced zucchini (optional)

1 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

Start by making the biscuits.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, black pepper, and chopped chives.

Add butter and cream cheese to the dry ingredients.  Use your fingers to quickly incorporate the fat into the flour.  Break up the butter and cream cheese with your fingers until some of the fat is the size of oat flakes and some of the fat is the size of small pebbles.

Make a small well in the center of the fat and flour mixture.  Add the buttermilk.  Using a fork, combine the wet and dry ingredients.  Try to moisten all of the flour bits with the liquid.  Dump the shaggy biscuit dough onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead together until dough forms a disk about 1 1/2 inches thick.

Use a round, 1 1/2-inch biscuit cutter to cut biscuits.  Gather the dough scraps, knead for a few turns, and cut out more biscuits until no dough remains.  Place biscuits on a small cookie sheet and place in the fridge until ready to bake.

Next, make the filling.  Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Dice onion, garlic, carrots, zucchini, and thaw the frozen peas.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Whisk in the flour.  Mixture will be very thick.  Heat for 1 minute.  Turn flame to low and add the chicken stock.  Whisk until no flour bits remain.  Whisk in the milk and add the cream cheese.  Heat over medium low heat, stirring often, untilcream cheese has melted and the mixture is the consistency of warm, thick pudding.  Add chicken, lemon, and nutmeg.  Stir.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   Remove mixture from heat and set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter (or olive oil, if using).  Add onions and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add minced garlic and saute for one minute more.  Add carrots, zucchini, and peas.  Cook for  about 3 minutes.  The vegetables will not be entirely cooked through.  That’s ok!  Remove from heat and add vegetable mixture to the creamy chicken mixture.  Stir to combine.

Spoon filling into a 9×13-inch pan.  Remove the biscuits from the fridge and place them on top of the filling.  Brush the tops of the biscuits with heavy cream, buttermilk, or egg wash.

Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until biscuits are puffed and golden, and the sides of the pot pie are bubbling.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.

To reheat, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Cover dish with foil and bake until warmed through, about 15 minutes.  Serve.

Chicken Pot Pie will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Stink Bug and Squash

I was to sit outside on my porch and write this post while I breathed in the cool fall air and enjoyed this beautiful day. I wanted to let the sounds of my kids fighting playing, the leaves rustling and the wind caressing my cheeks act as the inspiration for my writing. With this in mind, I got my chair setup and settled into it with my laptop. I was just beginning to ponder about what to write, when my son came over and pointed out a stink bug to me about two feet away from me. He then started regaling me with tales of how it sprays a stinky secretion if it feels threatened and hence the name 'stink bug'. Apparently it can spray as far away as 2 miles. Well, I was well within that two mile range of the bug's spray. Instead of wondering about writing I was now wondering about what may make the bug feel threatened. Having just cleaned my kitchen, I smelled like a mixture of the cleaning supplies and that is a smell even I feel threatened by, let alone the bug. That settled it for me. I moved myself inside and opened the window instead. Away from the potential stinky spray, I now felt calm again and I could still look outside and breathe in the cool Fall air. I may have a post up today after all. Take that, stink bug! 
              Speaking of Fall, I just love the mood it puts me in. I like it just as much as I like Spring but in a different way. While Spring leaves me feeling like a caged animal who has just been let out, Fall makes me want to bake, make soups, wear scarfs and just enjoy breathing in the cool air. Secretly though, I want to play in every leaf pile I walk by, so the 'caged animal that has just been set free' feeling is alive in me every season. Just the degree to which I can control it varies between Spring and the other seasons.   

One of the best things about Fall is the squash. I love squash in any form. Recently I had read a magazine article on baked squash recipes and I have been wanting to bake squash ever since. Luckily, I had a pumpkin squash sitting on my counter that would perfectly suit that purpose. 
               The Indian in me reaches for chili powder-cumin-haldi in my cupboard when I think of squash because I think these spices will highlight the sweetness of the squash with their spiciness. This time though, I resisted the urge to use these spices and decided to use some of the specialty oils and vinegar that I have instead. I tend to buy reasonably priced specialty oils, vinegar and salts when I see them at any store I am in, like my life depended on it. And then I let them sit idly while I use my Indian spices. Not today though. I talked myself out of using the Indian spices and used the pumpkin oil and lemon vinegar instead. I put my beautifully growing lemon thyme to use as well. I wish I stepped away from Indian spices more often. But, alas, it is wishful thinking. So that makes this dish very special.

Baked Squash recipe:
Note: There is no recipe as such here. Just use what you have in your kitchen. Ideally you want to use ingredients that will compliment the sweetness of the squash. The lemon acted as a perfect compliment to the squash in my case. 

          Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. 
          Slice the two halves into crescent shaped discs
          Top each disc with pumpkin oil, lemon vinegar, lemon thymes leaves and  sea salt. 
          Bake the squash pieces at 350 for about 35 minutes or until they can be easily pierced with a fork 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Maid Rites are made right~!

When I was a child growing up in Iowa there were a few places I loved eating. Topping the list was probably the Maid Right restaurant.  http://maid-rite.com/

It's nothing fancy, for sure, but they were so delicious, that even as a little girl, I could sometimes eat three of them.  

Once I moved to Los Angeles, I would occasionally find myself craving a Maid Rite.  Or three.  
Then one afternoon I casually mentioned to my neighbor Sondra that I NEEDED a Maid Rite.  Unbelievably, she knew exactly what I was talking about and shared that she too was from Iowa, in the Sioux Falls area.  Not only that, but she knew how to make the sandwiches.  She'd worked there as a teen in the 60's.  I thought I'd died and gone to Heaven when she told me.

Sondra busted out the recipe card, and I dashed to the market for the simple list of ingredients.   Right then, that afternoon, we whipped up a CrockPot full of Maid Rites and enjoyed them for dinner.
They aren't the least bit spicy, so they're the perfect sandwich for kids and the recipe makes a fairly large batch, so you can share with friends or freeze half for another time.  
MaidRites are ideal for football gatherings and I've yet to meet anyone that didn't like them.  Give them a try and see what you think.

  • 3-1/2 pounds lean ground beef, browned and drained

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • ½ cup celery finely sliced

  • 1 cup ketchup

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard

  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt

  • 2 cups beef broth or stock 

  • Soft, fresh hamburger rolls 

  • Dill pickles, sliced cheese & mustard-for toppings--optional

*  Make sure the onion and celery is very finely chopped, you don't want chunks in the mixture.In a skillet, brown ground beef; drain well.
Place browned, drained beef into CROCK POT.
Add: onion, celery, ketchup, chili powder, mustard, salt and broth.
Stir well.
Cover & cook on LOW for 8~12 hours. Serve on rolls and garnish as desired.

Makes 12-15 sandwiches.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Solemn thoughts and a fajita bar

This afternoon I read an article about a 12 year old girl from FL who committed suicide over bullying. Being a parent of a twelve year old myself I was left shaken and deeply disturbed. As parents we do our best to protect our children but there are so many things that could still go wrong. I came home and hugged my kids tight and talked to them about bullying. Neither bullying nor being bullied are acceptable.
                        Such thoughts weighed heavily on my mind as I made dinner tonight. Usually music lifts my mood or the very act of chopping vegetables can be like meditation to me. But not tonight. There was nothing I could do to pull myself out of the funk. My cooking is as much a reflection of how I am feeling as it is of the spices I add to make the dish. Being in the mood that I am in tonight I knew it was best for me to play it safe with dinner. So I decided to make something light and quick and call it a night. Looking at what I had in the fridge, a self service fajita bar perfectly fit that bill.
I have no recipe per se tonight. To put the fajita bar together, I cooked onions and peppers in a skillet with some oil, cumin, chilli powder and turmeric (my trifecta of champion spices). Once the onions and peppers were caramelized, I set them aside. I then tossed a packet of precooked grilled chicken (store bought)  in some raspberry habanero sauce that I had in the fridge and cooked it in the same skillet as the peppers and once the chicken had cooked for 10 mins on a medium flame, I set it aside as well. The last thing I had to do was warm the tortillas. I warmed them in a pan one at a time with a few drops of olive oil for each tortilla. Once I laid out the store bought guacamole, bean salad and cheese along with the peppers, chicken and tortillas, dinner was ready.
It was a huge hit with the kids and with my husband. Even thought this was a halfhearted effort at making dinner, I am glad I made it. I would have ended up feeling worse had I not made dinner. I decided to write this post as further therapy for myself. I will curl up with a book now and let it soothe me to sleep. I am sure I will feel better by tomorrow. My heart goes out to the little girl's parents. They will have to wait a long time for that tomorrow that will make them feel slightly better.
           I will have a recipe and hopefully more of a cheerful story next time I share a blogpost with you guys. Until then, happy cooking!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Walking Dead Sunday: 

Cake Box White Lemon Cookies.

The family and I are diehard Walking Dead fans (Sundays, 9:00pm on AMC channel).
When sunday rolls around it is mandatory to have a desert for the show, usually it's ice cream. This sunday it was the premiere of the 4th season of WD so I wanted to do something a little extra. I read about this simple recipe on our "Foodie Friends of Rob" group on Facebook. A simple idea of a boxed cake cookie - quick and easy. Well, glad I went for it. Delicious. These were super light and fluffy, and the white chocolate is a perfect kick. These can also be made with a strawberry mix.

1 box lemon cake mix (I used Betty Crocker's deluxe)
1 stick of butter
2 eggs
1/2 bag white chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt stick of butter in large bowl.
Add mix and eggs, stir.
Add half bag of white chocolate chips, stir.

Stir all ingredients well, mix will be thick.

Add tablespoon drops onto baking sheet.

Cook for 10 minutes.

Eat and be merry......for tomorrow, the zombies might get you !!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Butternut Squash soup

Sage curried butternut squash soup
One way I unwind from my workday is to decide what I will make for dinner as I drive home from work. One hour of drive time is a long time to toss around various ideas in my head based on what I think is in my fridge at home. I am fortunate in that I don't cook for picky eaters. They are game for anything I make. So my range for what to cook is usually pretty wide. By the time I reach home I usually have decided what I will make. But that doesn't necessary mean that is what will end up on the dinner plate. Take the other evening for instance, I came home from work with fajitas for dinner on my mind. But seeing the butternut squash on my counter made me want to cook with it instead. I cut into the squash and its aroma transported me about 9000 miles to my mom's kitchen. I ended up making butternut squash idlis in honor of my mom. I will share the recipe for idlis another time. I am here today to share the recipe for butternut squash soup. I have made my own version of butternut squash soup before but I never used the seeds or fried parsley as a garnish. When I read the recipe for this soup, I knew there would be no changing of my mind this time. I served it as a very late Saturday dinner and this soup was just the right balance of light and tasty. It was a big hit at my house. Hope you make for your own family and enjoy it as much as we did at our house.

Recipe Source: PBS


  • Olive oil
  • 1 (2-pound) butternut squash, cut in half with seeds scooped out and reserved
  • Ground cumin
  • Ground coriander
  • 9-10 whole fresh sage leaves
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Madras-style curry powder
  • 2-3 fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups veggie stock
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees. Rub the butternut squash with olive oil and place it face side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast the butternut squash for 30-35 minutes, until it's tender with a fork. Remove and set aside until it's cool enough to handle.
  2. Meanwhile, let's make the garnish. Rinse out the seeds, discarding any pulp. Sprinkle the seeds with a pinch of cumin, pinch of ground coriander and a pinch of salt. In a small skillet, add a teaspoon of olive oil. When hot, add the seeds, toasting them on both sides, about 2-3 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. To the same skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil until hot. Add sage leaves and fry until the leaves are crispy and the edges are lightly browned, about 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. To a stock pot, placed over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the minced shallot and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the spices: 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander, Madras-style curry powder, minced sage leaves and minced garlic clove. Cook until the spices and garlic are fragrant, about 1 minute. Scoop out the butternut squash flesh and add it to the pot, along with the veggie stock. Cover the pot, turn the heat to medium low and simmer for 10-12 minutes. In batches, carefully transfer the soup to a blender and pulse until very smooth. Transfer the soup back to the pot and salt to taste. I added about 3/4 teaspoon. Stir in the heavy cream and heat until warm. Divide the soup between bowls and garnish with butternut squash seeds and fried sage leaves.