We'll start with the soup:
Divine Butternut Squash & Apple Soup:
4 c. less sodium chicken broth
1 onion, roughly chopped,
1 large Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 stalks hearts of celery, or 1 1/2 regular stalk (whatever), ends removed, also chopped
1 1/4 (or so) unfiltered apple juice (I used "Simply Apple")
1 3-4lb butternut squash
1/2 c. half 'n half (I use fat free)
cream to taste (I probably used about 1/2 cup)
dash of nutmeg
dash of curry powder
Hazelnuts for garnish
1. Roast the squash: Heat oven to 400 degrees. With a heavy-duty knife, cut the squash down the middle, splitting it open. Scoop out the seeds. Cut each half in half, place flesh-side down on a baking sheet, allow to roast for 35-45 minutes, or until the flesh pierces easily with a fork. Remove from oven, allow to cool enough to handle. Remove and discard outer peel, chop squash, set aside.
2. While waiting for the squash to finish roasting, chop the appropriate ingredients and place the first five into a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and allow to simmer until veggies are fairly soft.
3. Add squash when it's ready, if any of it is still a bit firm, let it cook for a bit with the other veggies & fruit. Turn the heat down, ladle in small batches into a blender. Puree until smooth, place pureed amount into a separate bowl (if you have one of the large glass Pampered Chef bowls with a spout and handle, use it!). Use a rubber spatula to get the last of the chunky veggies into the blender; return all of the pureed soup to the pot.
(Obviously, if you have an immersion blender, this is all a different story)
4. Taste. Add half n' half and cream to taste. Add nutmeg and curry powder, and really whatever you want at this point. If you're making anything else, keep the soup pot on a burner set to low, covered, stirring occasionally.
Serve with a small drizzle of cream over the surface. Top with crushed, toasted hazelnuts.
Note: I was very, very pleased with this, having mostly made it up. The tartness of the apple cuts the musky sweetness of the squash. I was worried that the celery might overpower the apple, but it didn't, just added the right amount of acidity. If you want to avoid the calories, you *could* skip the cream altogether, I suppose, but then life wouldn't be nearly as fun.
Mousse for Two:
Just over 3/4 c. heavy cream
4 ounces good quality chocolate (I use Black and Green)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1. Add vanilla to cream. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside a small amount of cream; cover and fridge.
2. On a cutting board, chop the chocolate. I don't have a double boiler, so I place the chocolate in a Pyrex measuring cup and microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring in between. Set aside the cutting board for later. Allow the chocolate to cool until about room temperature.
3. Fold the chocolate into the whipped cream, using a rubber spatula to make sure you get all of the chocolate in there. Fold until chocolate is well incorporated. Spoon mousse into servingware. I used teacups, which looked very cute. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Fancy tip: Before serving, top with reserved whipped cream. Use a knife to scrape chocolate dust off the cutting board over the tops of the mousses as a garnish. A pirouette cookie placed in the teacup would be a nice addition...might try that in the future.
Note: These are very rich. I got about a half-inch into my teacup before putting it back into the fridge. You could easily get three, maybe four servings out of this recipe without looking stingy; I halved it from the original. Would be very cute and very easy for a dinner party.
More book updates to come later...