Maple Glazed Hasselback Butternut Squash with Herbed Feta Crumble

Tender butternut squash, sweet caramelized maple syrup, and salty feta hits every single one of my favorite flavor notes in this showstopper of a dish!  I prepped this recipe for my TODAY Show segment this week along with an equally fab chile-maple marinated steak, but time was tight so unfortunately we didn't get to it on the air. But this baby is way too delicious to stay hidden, so here it is!!

Creamy Mushroom Parsnip Soup (No Flour)

Believe it or  not, this creamy mushroom soup is made with absolutely no flour or potatoes! To thicken the soup, I use parsnips, which add creaminess with much fewer carbs. I also love the slightly floral and herbal notes of the parsnips; they contrast beautifully with the earthy mushrooms.

This recipe is a simple one to make, simply simmer all the vegetables until tender and reduced, then puree into a smooth creamy soup. For the best flavor, find the fanciest mushrooms you can get and choose a variety of them. Plain old button mushrooms will work, too, but don't do much in terms of flavor. Since the mushrooms are the stars of the dish, you'll want to pick something with a bit more depth like shitake, crimini, or even portabella mushrooms.

You can puree this soup in batches in a regular blender or use an immersion blender right in the pot. I love to serve this soup topped with fresh chives, a shower of lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil.

Looking for more creamy soup recipes?  Try this Creamy Chestnut Soup, my Creamy Roasted Red Pepper and Carrot Soup, or my Salmorejo (a chilled, creamy gazpacho variation).

Creamy Mushroom Parsnip Soup (No Flour)
Serves 6

1/2 cup butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
Kosher salt
Black pepper
2 stalks celery, sliced
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms, chopped (choose a mix of crimini, portabella, shiitake, oyster or other mushrooms.)
1 cup dry sherry or white wine
2-3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
6 cups low or no sodium broth (use your favorite—chicken, beef, or vegetable broth all work!)
4 bay leaves
5 sprigs thyme
1 small bunch sage
zest and juice from 1 lemon + more for garnish
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced chives, for garnish

Melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt, and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until onions are soft and start to caramelize. Stir in the celery and garlic, and sauté two minutes, or until fragrant. Add the mushrooms, season with another generous pinch of salt and a crack of black pepper. Stir to coat well, and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the sherry (or wine) and cook, stirring, until liquid is evaporated (about 2 minutes).

Add the chopped parsnips, broth, bay leaves, thyme, sage, lemon zest, and juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Add the cream, and simmer an additional five minutes, then remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Remove the bay leaves (be sure to count out all four!), and any stems from the sage and thyme.

Puree the soup using an immersion blender, or in batches in a standard blender, transferring it all into a clean pot once smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve soup garnished with a sprinkle of chives and fresh lemon zest.

Chunky Marinara Sauce

I made this super easy Chunky Marinara Sauce recipe on TODAY Show last week with Kathie Lee and Hoda, and figured I'd share the recipe here, too. It was a segment about "cooking with kids," and I brought my friend Vicki's daughter Lexi along to make some fun dishes with me!

Spicy Chorizo Shakshuka

Ahh shakshuka! An amazing Middle Eastern breakfast dish that is as fun to say as it is delicious to eat.

At its most basic, shakshuka is a dish of eggs baked in a savory tomato and pepper sauce spiced with paprika and cumin. But honestly, that's just the beginning. Add in sauteed veggies, cheese, or meat (or all the above) or have a little fun with the spices. It's a simple and cozy dish that works well for both breakfast and easy dinners. It's wonderful if you're feeding a crowd because the sauce can be made well in advance with just the eggs and final baking done right before serving.

How to Entertain Party Guests with Dietary Restrictions

Last week I did a media tour on behalf of sponsors TruWhip and Edible Arrangements, sharing a few easy holiday entertaining tips and recipe ideas designed to make life easier for the host. During the interviews with various TV and radio stations around the country, I talked about how one of the biggest challenges for hosts this time of year is managing a menu when you have guests with a variety of different dietary restrictions.

Whether you have friends who eat gluten-free, have nut or dairy allergies, are vegan, or are simply trying to stick to a keto or paleo diet plan, it can be tricky trying to find ways to balance a low-fuss menu with making sure all of your guests can eat and enjoy without worrying about food that meets their individual needs.

Here are some of the tips and recipe ideas I shared--hopefully some of them will inspire you and help you with your party planning, too! 

Ponche Navideño (Mexican Christmas Punch)

This time of year, I'm always craving a mug of something steamy and cozy. From rich hot chocolate to endless cups of tea, it's my favorite way to stay warm when it's freezing outside. I've recently fallen in love with Ponche Navideño--a Mexican-inspired Christmas punch that is made by simmering fresh fruit like apples, prunes, and guava with whole spices and tea.

For this version, I'm using Lipton Green Tea, which adds delicate flavor and combines beautifully with the fruit. I'm a big green tea fan. I rarely drink sweetened beverages in my daily life, so unsweetened green tea has long been one of my go-tos when I want a natural pick-me-up or a refreshing alternative to water. During the summer, I brew up a batch and keep it in my fridge to drink over ice with lemon, but in winter I prefer it warm.

Creamy Chestnut Soup

Last year, Eugene and I took a last-minute trip to Paris in December. This time of year in Paris is sort of equal parts magical and miserable. Magical because it's the holiday season so the entire city seems to be twinkling with fairy lights, festive store windows, and Christmas trees decorated with paper bows.

Oh, but the weather! December is the grayest month in Paris and the sky seems to blend into the zinc rooftops of the same color. It rains constantly, alternating between a chilly insipid mist and torrential downpour that switches to the other the second you get used to one.

Fortunately, there was soup! Thick, rich, creamy bowls of pureed chestnut soup, to be exact.

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