Friday, November 29, 2013

Latke Love

Happy Hanukkah! You might be stuffed with turkey and pumpkin pie from yesterday's feast, but I have to share this incredible recipe for Potato Latkes from Bon Appetit's December 2012 issue. 

What You'll Need:
4-6 large russet potatoes
2 large yellow onions
2 eggs
1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs (I use GF panko breadcrumbs)
3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4+ tablespoons of vegetable oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Peel the potatoes and onions. Grate them using the large holes of a box grater and transfer to a large kitchen towel (Note: Your towel will get starchy and wet, so plan to wash it immediately after use). Gather the ends of the towel and twist over the sink to wring out as much of the liquid as possible. Open the towel and toss the mixture, then repeat the twisting. 
  2. Whisk eggs, breadcrumbs, salt, baking powder, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend. Add the potato mixture and blend it all together using your fingers (yep, you'll have to get a little messy for this one!). The latke mixture should be wet and thick, but not soupy.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. Put a wire rack inside another baking sheet and set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat (there should be about 1/8" of fat in the pan). Drop a tiny amount of the latke mixture in the pan to test the oil. If it sizzles around the edges, the oil is ready.
  5. Working in batches and adding more oil to the skillet as needed, drop large spoonfuls of the latke mixture into the pan, gently pressing them down with the back of a spoon to flatten slightly. 
  6. Cook latkes, occasionally rotating the pan for even browning, until golden brown and cooked through (about 3 minutes per side). If small pieces break off and start to burn, carefully strain them out. 
  7. Transfer the latkes to the paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain, then transfer them to the prepared wire rack (see step 3). Place the sheet with the wire rack and latkes into the oven to keep them warm and crisp while you continue to cook the remaining latkes.

Latkes are traditionally served with sour cream and/or applesauce. Because this year's Festival of Lights overlaps with Thanksgiving, try pairing your potato pancakes with some leftover turkey and a little cranberry sauce. It is guaranteed to be delicious!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Set the Table

Thanksgiving is here, and I know that many of you will be hosting a big crowd. Your guests are on their way and the turkey is in the oven, so what's left? The table setting!

Jamie at Perfecting Fabulous posted some great tips to help you get it right:

  • Picture the word FORKS. Starting on the left, you have the Fork (F), and then the Plate (O is the shape of the plate). To the right (R) of the plate, you place the Knives (K) and Spoon (S). Clever and easy to remember!
  • Holding your hands out in front of you, make a lowercase 'b' with your left hand and a lowercase 'd' with your right hand. This helps you to remember that the bread plate goes to the left of the place setting and drinks go on the right. 
Once you know where everything should be placed, check out this article from Elle Decor on how to create a chic tablescape for your Thanksgiving feast or any dinner party that you might have this holiday season. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pumpkin Centerpieces

In addition to taking a few side dishes and a couple bottles of wine to our Thanksgiving feast with Neal's family, I also plan on bringing some flowers. A few years ago my mom got some adorable pumpkin centerpieces from a local florist, so I decided to re-create them for our table.

As it turns out, they're SUPER easy to make! I used two sugar pumpkins, saran wrap, silica gel, some wet floral foam, and a mixed bunch of flowers from Trader Joe's. If you want to make one for your table (or to take as a hostess gift!), read on for directions.
  1. Hollow out the pumpkins. While you're scooping out the seeds, let the floral foam soak in water. 
  2. Pumpkins tend to get rotten and mushy on the bottom (gross!) so I sprinkled some silica gel in the bottom of mine (that's the stuff that you might find in a little packet in the pocket of a new coat or in a box of shoes). 
  3. Line the inside of the pumpkin with saran wrap before placing the floral foam inside. This creates a waterproof barrier between the foam and the pumpkin.
  4. Start arranging your flowers by sticking them into the floral foam. I place the bigger flowers first.
  5. Fill in the extra spaces with small flowers, berries, leaves, etc. 
Tip: Floral foam isn't very forgiving. Once you place a flower in it, you've used up that piece of foam even if you take the flower back out. Plan your arrangement carefully! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Simple Wine Pairing

Want to really impress your guests this holiday season? Try pairing your favorite recipes with the perfect wine. You don't have to be a master sommelier to understand the basics. Read on for some wine-pairing tips.
  1. Crisp wines balance salty flavors. Most dry sparkling wines like Champagne or Cava have a little hint of something sweet that makes them refreshing when you're sampling crackers, olives, or other hors d'oeuvres. 
  2. Sweetness from Rieslings, Gew├╝rztraminers, and Vouvrays are perfect to serve with something spicy. Try pouring one next time you get Chinese takeout or enjoy some spicy Indian fare. 
  3. Light white wines like Sauvignon Blanc  or Pinot Grigio often have crisp fruit flavors. Try them paired with light chicken or fish dishes. 
  4. Silky white wines, like an oaky Chardonnay, pair well with fatty fish like salmon. You can also try it with dishes that are prepared with a rich, creamy sauce. 
  5. Dry Rose has the acidity of white wine and some of the fruit flavor of red wine. This makes it a perfect choice to pair with rich, creamy cheese dishes. 
  6. Pinot Noir is great for dishes with earthy or smoky flavors. Think mushrooms, herb potatoes, applewood smoked bacon, or duck. This would be a great pick for Thanksgiving dinner.
  7. My favorite varietal is Zinfandel. The rustic, rich flavors are pretty versatile- pair it with pate, sausage, or even a big bowl of pasta with hearty red sauce. Note that this is not a great wine to serve with cheese.
  8. Having a BBQ? Try a Malbec! Malbec, Shiraz, and Cotes-du-Rhone are bold enough to stand up to the flavors of tangy BBQ sauce. 
  9. If your dish has a lot of spices like cumin, chili powder, etc. choose a Syrah or a Cabernet Franc that also has some spicy notes to complement your food.
  10. Choose a Cabernet Sauvignon to go with juicy red meat. A Cabernet or Bordeaux has firm tannins that help to balance out each bite of steak or roasted rack of lamb. 
If you want to go beyond the basics, read more at

Tip: If you've chilled white wine in your fridge, it's probably a little bit colder than the optimal serving temperature. Delicate and oaked wines tend to lose the full complexity of their flavor when they're too cold, so let it sit out for about 15 minutes before you enjoy it. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Thanksgiving Feast

It's hard to believe that we're nearing the end of November and Thanksgiving is this week! Neal and I will be spending the holiday with his family this year, and I've been pouring through recipes trying to decide what to bring along.

In my family, Thanksgiving usually means a big party with a lot of food. My dad smokes a turkey outside, which frees up oven space in the house so there's plenty of time to make several side dishes. With that in mind, I've put together a full menu for the most delightful Thanksgiving feast you could imagine!

Parmesan-Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon
Cheese Plate with Crackers and Olives
Spiced Pecans

Main Dish:
Smoked Turkey
Herb and Apple Stuffing

Side Dishes:
Cranberry and Dried Cherry Relish
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Garlic String Beans
Potato Fennel Gratin
Celery Root, Sweet Potato, and Quinoa Crumble

Sweet Treats:
Banana Pumpkin Mousse Tart
Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

I'll be making a few of these dishes, but I hope you'll try a recipe or two and let me know how it goes!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Spiced Cider Doughnuts

I typically don't blog on the weekends, but I couldn't resist sharing this recipe! It's about 25 degrees outside, so Neal and I are having a lazy day and staying warm inside. Lazy isn't usually my speed, so I decided to beat boredom by whipping up some baked spiced cider doughnuts. These are SO good! I'm trying to stop myself from eating the rest of them while they're still warm...

What You'll Need:
2 cups of Gluten Free flour (regular All-Purpose flour will also work)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 large egg
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup apple butter
1/3 cup spiced cider
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup sour cream
Extra cinnamon and sugar for dusting the doughnuts


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine the first five ingredients and set aside.
  3. Mix the egg, brown sugar, apple butter, cider, maple syrup and sour cream.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients (step 1) to the wet ingredients (step 2). Mix until just combined.
  5. Spray a doughnut pan with nonstick spray. If you don't have a doughnut pan, don't worry! You can always use the bottom half of the cups in a muffin pan. Your doughnuts won't have holes, but they'll still taste delicious. 
  6. Pipe the doughnut batter into the greased pan.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Let the doughnuts cool slightly before turning them onto a wire rack. When the doughnuts are cool enough to handle, dip them in extra cinnamon and sugar. 
Tip: Since these doughnuts are baked, not fried, the extra cinnamon and sugar will probably need some help sticking to the doughnuts. I brushed a little bit of melted butter on mine before I dipped them in the sugar mix. 

Friday, November 22, 2013


I recently hosted some out-of-town friends, and as I carefully planned our weekend it seemed that every activity involved eating! Catalyst is my of our favorite spots for wowing guests with gourmet eats. Located in Kendall Square, this warm, modern restaurant features products centered on locally grown organic produce and wild/farm raised food.

Although the menu regularly changes to feature the most seasonal ingredients, my favorite dish seems to be a mainstay: Tournedos of beef with creamed kale, bacon, and roasted shallots, accented by foie gras butter and black truffle sauce. It's rich and incredibly delicious.

You can find Catalyst at 300 Technology Square, or visit their website by clicking here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

San Sebastian

San Sebastian or Donostia is coastal city in the Basque region of Spain. Neal and I visited this incredible town on the Bay of Biscay in September, and I love reminiscing about the fun we had!

Surfers flock here, but if that's not your activity-of-choice, you can grab some pintxos in a local bar, take a hike up to San Sebastian's historic hilltop fort, or shop at any of the luxurious stores that make up the city's center. In September, the entire city is transformed for the annual San Sebastian International Film Festival. If you plan to come and catch a movie premiere, make sure you plan ahead because hotels fill up fast- this is one of the most important cinema festivals in the world. We stayed at the Hotel Maria Christina, which is right by the theater, close to the water, and has some pretty interesting history.

I cannot say enough great things about this vacation destination, and I hope you'll consider it when you plan your next European getaway!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tipping Tips

We've all been in this situation: You just finished a delicious dinner with friends and one of them leans over and asks "How much are you tipping?". When someone has rendered a service, it's generally appropriate to thank them with a monetary gesture. Helpful people deserve great tips! Here are some guidelines to help you make smart decisions in every situation:

Restaurants and Bars
  • Waiter: 15-20% of the entire pre-tax bill 
  • Bartender: $1-$2 per drink 
  • Valet: $2-$5 when the car is returned to you 
Everyday Life
  • Cleaning Service: 20% 
  • Hairdresser: 15-20% of the service 
  • Manicure or other Spa Services: 15-20% (Note: no tip necessary if the service is rendered by the owner.)
  • Room Service: 15% of the bill 
  • Taxi: 15% is enough, but add an extra $1-2 if the driver helps with your bags 
  • Hotel Housekeeping: $2-$5 per night (Note: Leave the tip on your pillow or some other obvious place with a thank-you note) 
Keep in mind that if you have someone who graciously renders a service on a regular basis, it's customary to tip a little bit extra around the holidays. You can also thank your handyman, post man, etc. with a gift card or a sweet treat during the holiday season.

For more information about how to be a total tipster, check out this article on tipping etiquette from Business Insider by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pack Your Bags

I'm a frequent traveler, and over time I've perfected the art of packing all of my favorite outfits into one small carry-on bag. This is no easy feat, but when you don't have to spend time waiting in lines to check in, or hanging out by a luggage carousel when you reach your destination, it's worth it!

Here are three simple tips for keeping your suitcase organized:
1.  Stick to a consistent color scheme when you plan out your outfits for the week (bonus points if you can create several mix-and-match outfits with the pieces you've chosen). This will minimize the amount of shoes that you have to pack, and you don't have to sacrifice style- just bring some great accessories to add variety!

2. Pare down your toiletries. Simple swaps can make a big difference. For example, rather than bringing an entire bottle of perfume, spritz some into a small travel atomizer. Instead of bringing full-size versions of your go-to face wash, ask for sample packs when you buy your next bottle.

Tip: When I travel to the same place multiple weeks in a row (for work), I generally ask the concierge to hold onto a bag of toiletries and a pair of running shoes. This way, I don't have to worry about packing them each week and I can enjoy my full-size favorites when I'm there. 

3.  Be strategic about how you put items into your bag. I like to use the Eagle Creek Pack-It Folders and travel organizers because they keep clothes wrinkle free and compressed. If you don't want to purchase extra travel accessories, try rolling up your clothes. By rolling rather than folding, you compress all of the extra air out of your clothes and can fit more in your luggage.

Once all of your clothes are into the bag, fill the extra space and pockets with your accessories, shoes,  etc. If you're packing a bag of toiletries, consider keeping it out of your luggage and sticking it in your purse (or an outside pocket of your bag). This makes going through security a snap!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

Have you ever browned butter? If not, try it! It's an easy way to kick it up a notch in the kitchen, and the nutty caramel flavor really shines through in this recipe for brown butter snickerdoodles. 

We watched football with some friends yesterday, and in the company of many salty snacks, these melt-in-your-mouth cookies were a big hit! They turned out crisp around the edges and a little soft in the center, just the way I like them. Read on for the instructions, adapted from Ambitious Kitchen.

What You'll Need:
  • 2 1/2 cups gluten free flour (or all-purpose flour if gluten is your friend)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg 
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt (use the full-fat kind!)
  • Extra cinnamon and sugar for coating the cookies


  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, and salt.  Set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. It will start to foam, so make sure you are whisking constantly (you don't want the butter solids to burn!). Continue cooking until the butter begins to brown and gives off a nutty aroma. Remove it from heat immediately and pour the butter into the bowl of your mixer. Let it cool for a few minutes before moving onto the next step. 
  3. Mix the butter and sugar (both granulated and brown) together on medium speed. Add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and Greek yogurt. 
  4. Add the dry ingredients (step 1 above) to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until just combined. 
  5. The cookie dough needs to refrigerate before baking, but it's a lot easier if you make the dough into balls first. Make dough into balls and roll them in cinnamon and sugar (combine about 1/4 cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon for this coating). Place the balls on a baking sheet and pop it in the fridge for at least three hours.
  6. Once the dough is chilled, place dough balls about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. You'll know they're done when the edges get golden brown but the middles still look a bit undercooked. 
  7. Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before transferring them to wire racks. Don't forget to sample one! They're really good hot out of the oven. 
Tip: If you don't have 3 hours to let the dough chill, try popping it in the freezer for about 30-45 minutes. I was short on time yesterday, and this method worked just fine!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Oh, Baby! A Movember Baby Shower

It’s officially Movember, the season when men bond by growing mustaches and supporting Men’s Health Awareness.

My guy is sporting some pretty sexy scruff, but there’s a new man on my mind: one of my oldest friends just announced that she’s having a baby boy! As I brainstorm about all things baby-related, I've stumbled across two mustache-themed parties that I just have to share:

Pinterest via

Pinterest via

Thursday, November 14, 2013

South End Buttery

Chai tea lattes have become my go-to coffee shop order as the weather gets cooler. With spicy flavors of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and black pepper, cooled by milk and honey, this is the perfect fall drink.

As I've come to discover, not all lattes are created equal. The South End Buttery has the most delightful drink you'll encounter. If you stop in for a latte, consider staying for brunch or dinner. The coffee shop has recently expanded into a full-service restaurant and it's a great place to have a cozy meal on chilly day.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Strike A Pose

After a long week, there's nothing better than relaxing and putting the stress of work behind you. Charlestown Yoga is in my neighborhood and is one of my favorite places to stretch out and focus my thoughts. The instructors are awesome and you're guaranteed a great workout. Sign up for a class here.

Need a yoga mat? My favorite non-slip mat is from Lululemon,located here. There are definitely other options, but this mat is sure to keep you grounded in every pose from crow to cobra.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Violette Bakery

I love to bake, but sometimes it's preferable to pick up a singular baked good rather than baking a full batch of brownies, cookies, or muffins at home. So, when a friend of mine told me about Violette Bakery, I couldn't wait to check it out. The Violette team uses natural, organic, and locally-sourced ingredients to create gluten-free breads, cookies, cakes, tarts, and pies. You'll find fresh fruits, edible flowers, and seasonal vegetables in almost everything they make.

I stopped in recently and walked out with chocolate chip walnut cookies, french apple cake, and a mascarpone and raspberry stuffed brioche. I couldn't choose just one! 

Next time you need a birthday cake or an un-birthday baguette, visit this local establishment at 1001 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. Even if you typically enjoy gluten-laden goods, these treats are sure to please your palette!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Paperless Post

Planning to host Thanksgiving Dinner? Look no further than Paperless Post for a personal and well-designed dinner party invitation.

This amazing website helps you create both online and paper stationery (yes, you can get the snail-mail versions of their online cards) that makes it easy to communicate expressively on any occasion. I love their Thanksgiving greetings and invitations, but you'll also find unique designs from favorites like Kate Spade, Jonathan Adler, and John Derian.

If you're planning to send out an invite for a fall fête, make sure you send it at least two weeks in advance. This courtesy will allow your guests plenty of time to politely decline or graciously accept, and it also allows you to plan ahead!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wedding Gift Giving

Weddings are a time for celebration, but in addition to toasting the happy couple on their special day, you need to bring a gift. With the help of Emily Post and The Knot, I’ve compiled a few helpful tips for giving the perfect present:

1. If you’re invited to the ceremony, it’s customary to send a gift (even if you can’t attend). Try picking a gift from their registry. The couple chose those items for a reason, so you can’t go wrong!

2. The sooner, the better. Although the longstanding rule is that you have one year to send a gift, it’s best to have gift giving done by the wedding. If you’re going to give something that requires gift-wrap (i.e. not cash), send it directly to the couple rather than bringing it to the reception. This way, the couple doesn’t have to worry about getting the gift home after their party. 

3. Destination weddings are still weddings. They are not an excuse to skip a gift, even if the transportation, accommodations, and other expenses do influence how much you spend.

4. Gift-giving occasions abound. If you attend a shower, you should bring a gift. However, this does not take the place of a wedding gift. If you feel comfortable, choose a gift from the couple's registry for the shower and include some money in a card with a personal note for the wedding. 

5. Never miss an opportunity to be generous. If your friend didn’t give you a gift, you should still give one in return. Emily Post says, "Etiquette is not about two wrongs making a right. Hold yourself to your own standard, even if you're upset or frustrated."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Marry Me Lasagna

This recipe comes from 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know, compiled by the editors of Glamour Magazine. I tried it on a whim, and although it did not result in a spontaneous proposal, it was absolutely delicious. Neal loved it, and it was the perfect meal to curl up with on a cool Fall evening.

What You'll Need:
3 cups Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)
8 oz. cooked lasagna noodles (mine were gluten free rice noodles)
One 15-16 ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Basil leaves, chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the marinara sauce and cook the noodles while the sauce is simmering. Drain the noodles and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta and eggs. Spread 1 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9X13 in. pan. Top with a layer of noodles, followed by half the ricotta mixture.
  3. Repeat with a second layer of marinara, noodles, and ricotta mixture and top with a third layer of noodles. Spread ¾ cup of marinara sauce on the noodles (reserving ¼ cup to drizzle over the lasagna when you serve it). Sprinkle with the mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake the lasagna for about 1 hour until the top is golden, the filling is bubbling around the edges, and the noodles are tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with basil and extra sauce when you plate it.
Make Marinara Sauce:
  1. In a large saucepan, cook 5 thinly sliced garlic cloves in ¼ cup of olive oil over medium heat until golden (30 seconds).
  2. Turn the heat up to high and add two 28-ounce cans of diced tomatoes, a large pinch of salt, and ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat to moderately low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick (about 20 minutes).
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 10 basil leaves, torn into pieces, to the sauce. Once the butter is melted, remove the sauce from the heat.
It’s ready!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Weddings: What to Wear

I'm heading to a wedding this weekend and I can't wait to get dressed up for the black-tie-optional affair. Wedding attire can be tricky, but the wedding invitation and the time of the wedding can help you choose the right outfit:


Cocktail dress.
Long evening dress or dressy cocktail dress.
Dark suit.
Tuxedo (required if invitation states “Black tie”) or dark suit.
Dressy afternoon dress, suit or pantsuit.
Cocktail dress, dressy pantsuit.
Dark suit; Blazer, slacks, tie.
Dark suit.
Sundress; dressy skirt and blouse.
Afternoon or cocktail dress. 
Sports jacket or blazer, khakis, tie (optional). 
Blazer, slacks, tie (optional).

Note: This chart was adapted from

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Williamson Wines

Last fall Neal and I took an amazing wine-tasting trip through California. Specifically, we headed north from San Francisco to Sonoma and Healdsburg. Not only was the trip incredible, but we stumbled upon a gem: Williamson Wines.

Williamson has a small tasting room off of the historic town plaza in Healdsburg, and each of their wines seems to be better than the last. We loved it so much that we signed up to receive a quarterly shipment of Williamson Wines, and last night we enjoyed the 2012 Relish Rousanne.

The Rousanne would pair perfectly with rosemary roasted chicken or creamy lobster risotto. We had it with some spicy thai noodles and it was delightful. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, explore the long list of alternatives here. You can’t go wrong!

Monday, November 4, 2013


I’ve been on the search for the perfect planter to fill with succulents and sit on the windowsill. Enter Niche, a boutique garden center in Boston’s South End. This awesome shop has everything you could possibly need to create the perfect arrangement: planters, moss, small-medium-large plants, and expert gardeners ready to lend a hand.

Here’s what I walked away with this weekend:

Check it out for yourself at 619 Tremont Street or visit their website here.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Recipe from Gourmet Live

This past weekend I stopped into Flour for lunch and had some delicious butternut squash and apple soup. It was so tasty that I wanted to recreate this fall-inspired food, so I dug up this recipe from Gourmet Magazine's 2012 Holiday Edition.

What You'll Need:
6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 lb boiling potatoes
2 medium Granny Smith apples (about 3/4 lb total)
1 1/2 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (3 1/2 to 4 cups)
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock or broth
2 to 2 1/2 cups water

  1. Cook bacon in a 6-qt heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, then transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, reserving 2 tablespoons fat in pot. Note: Add vegetable oil if your bacon is very lean.
  2. Cook celery, carrot, and onion in fat in pot over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Add cinnamon and cook, uncovered, stirring, 1 minute.
  3. While vegetables are cooking, peel potatoes and coarsely chop. Peel and core 1 apple and coarsely chop.
  4. Stir squash, potato, chopped apple, stock, 2 cups water, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper into onion mixture, then simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Puree soup in 4 batches in a blender (carefully!), then heat in cleaned pot over medium low heat, stirring occasionally.
Serve the soup topped with sour cream, bacon, and the remaining apple cut into thin matchsticks.

Tip: If you're planning a dinner party, you can make this soup up to two days in advance to free up your schedule on the day of the event!