Donuts?!?! You want to talk about DONUTS?!?! <-- pronounced like this!
Ask me to repurpose a blank piece of wood into something useful and exciting and I can’t. But when it comes to food, I love to reinvent an ingredient into something new and tasty. While I have no culinary degree, I have spent quite a bit of my time with some great chefs. I’ve asked questions, observed, and tried (and failed) lots of times in my own kitchen. Sometimes my husband comes home to a dinner of “I’m not sure you’re gonna like this” and we all love it. And other times he comes home to a dinner of “I’m not sure you’re gonna like this” and we all umm, don’t like it that much. Sorry, no link to the bad recipes! Those are the meals that get pureed, stirred into chicken broth, and turned into soup or sauce. We don’t like to waste food here.
But my latest culinary creation has made me feel more like a superstar instead of an at-home cook just trying to nourish her family on a budget with real food. I know what you’re thinking, I’m on this blog to learn some healthy recipes that taste good and are easy to prepare.
Q: "Why on earth are you telling me to use donuts Karen?"
A: "Because I’ve always said that eating healthy doesn’t mean depriving yourself of foods you love. And I LOVE cider donuts!!! This is the only season I really enjoy them so dammit I’m going to savor them and (bonus!) I created an amazing way to incorporate them into a healthy meal."
How’s that for an answer? Since us New Englanders love the Fall, my family visited Cider Hill Farm last Friday to play around, look at the animals, have some warm cider, and get a dozen of these sparkly, sugary donuts. If you haven’t been to Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury, MA I highly recommend it. We spent even more time there than first imagined due to all the fun they have ready to go. The “fat trikes” were awesome and we spent just as much time riding those around hay bales as we did eating donuts and sipping warm cider!
But we came home with left over donuts and after a day or two on our counter I realized we needed to use them up before we had to waste them. We love them, but a donut a day doesn’t keep the doctor away (and we had homemade apple crisp for that!). So as I was making my butternut squash soup, I was wishing we had some croutons to add a little floating crunch. As I perused my pantry and bread basket all I could find was the apple and cranberry bread we also brought home from Cider Hill. But that was for the stuffing I was going to make. All of a sudden, the donuts caught my eye and the light bulb went off! I took one donut and crumbled it into small pieces...you know, about the size of a crouton. Popped those bites into the toaster oven to make them brown and crispy. Once the soup was done it was carefully ladled into our green soup mugs that make their debut every October. The soup was then topped with crumbled Niman Ranch Bacon bits <-- oh, did I forget to mention there’s bacon in this too??? #winnerwinneryouwantthisdinner And then the crumbled apple cider donut croutons dusted the top almost like Tinkerbell put them there herself.
Finally...time to taste. SO GOOD! The bowl of steamy and creamy vegetables with salty bacon and crunchy sweet apple cider donut croutons was amazing. It all worked together and warmed our insides with an entire mug of Fall goodness. Even my almost 3-year old couldn’t get enough.
No I’m not suggesting you start incorporating donuts into your daily meal plans, but wanted to share a unique way to make fall flavors work together and last a little longer. We all have trouble with portion control so if this helps you spread the donut wealth, then go ahead and give it a shot. One donut was spread between three portions for us. Let me know how it works for you. Here’s my basic/general recipe if you want to give it a shot as I did...
4 slices Niman Ranch bacon (it’s the best brand out there and you can get it at Cider Hill Farm too), cut into small pieces. I use kitchen shears to make this easy.
1 onion, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup apple cider
6 cups low sodium chicken broth, which is 1.5 boxes
1/4 cup non-fat greek yogurt or sour cream (optional)
Heat a heavy bottom pot to medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove onto a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. Add the chopped onion, carrots, and celery to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until translucent - about 8-10 minutes. Remove vegetables into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons EVOO to pan and then add chopped butternut squash. Season with salt, pepper, about 1 tablespoon rosemary, 1 tablespoon sage, and 1 tablespoon thyme. I used all dried spices. Cook until squash starts to get soft, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetables back in and stir all to combine. Turn pan up to high heat and add in apple cider. You should get a wine/vinegar reaction with steam and bubbling. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and reduce to a simmer. Let the cider reduce to half which shouldn’t take long. Add in 6 cups low sodium chicken broth. Bring soup up to a boil and then immediately reduce to a simmer. Let vegetables simmer in liquid for about 15 minutes or until squash is tender. Turn off heat and use an immersion blender or blender to puree soup until smooth. Stir in yogurt or sour cream if using. It just makes the soup a little creamier. If soup is too thick you can always add in more chicken broth or water to thin it out to your desire.
When you’re ready to eat, top the soup with 2 tablespoons crumbled bacon pieces and 1/3 of the donut croutons. Enjoy!
Leave a comment and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear how you enjoy the flavors of Fall!