Welcome to The Bell House! I had a very special guest stop by for some food fun. She came down from the snowy corners of PA to the shores of Crab Country, MD to sell her fabulous hand made jewelry and visit family and friends. She is the artist behind Molly Moonflower Jewelry, a punk music lover, Mike Ness stalker and my bush diving buddy from college, MEGAN WHITTEN!
Let me clarify the “bush diving.” Megan was my college roommate for the last couple years at Frostburg State University. After a long week of classes and studying, we would visit some friends on a Friday night during the hours of 4-6 PM and have a cocktail (or two). On a walk to our next destination and only on a particularly silly occasion, we may have jumped off of balconies into some bushes or just flop into one when the moment struck.
I dunno, for some reason when we’re together we find ways to have good clean fun. Like the time we sat over the sink and stuffed grapes into our mouths. We wanted to see who could hold more. I don’t remember who won.
Sometimes the fun can turn a little, Uh Oh! For example, the time Megan pronounced she was going Punkin’ Chunkin with our porch punkin.’ Megan hurled it towards the street. Sadly, the punkin’ landed right on the hood of HER car. It was a big punkin’ and it left quite the mark.
We couldn’t let that punkin’ get away with putting that dent in her car. So, we attacked. The punkin’ didn’t stand a chance.
Then, like good girls, we cleaned up our mess.
Our roommates were equally as awesome. We would throw all kinds of parties, particularly themed parties. We did the quintessential pimp and ho party, Hawaiian themed, rock star and so many more. Even if only four people showed up, we had a blast.
We either made our costumes or rummaged through Megan’s closet for all her thrift store finds. That zebra skirt above, yep, that was in her closet. I warn you though, if you’re with Megan and you run across a thrift store, brace yourself for a long trip. I hope you have a snack! The girl embraces what others throw away.
One Halloween, we talked my now husband and his best friend into dressing up as The Simpons. It was epic! We should have won a contest or something. Megan and I made the wigs and the dresses. All this before Pinterest. The only character missing was Maggie, but Rusty, the Labrador, wanted to go as Superman. Rusty was from a different set of crazy roommates, R.I.P!
College was such a whirlwind experience. I could tell you a bunch more stories, some embarrassing, some hilarious and some questionable. One thing I know for sure, if you went to college pre-social media, you breathe a little easier, appreciating those “questionable” moments are locked away in a lost film canister somewhere.
Beyond dressing up and “questionable” moments, Megan and I were always cooking food for our friends. I loved when she made me eggs benedict. I struggled with egg poaching.
Since college, she has made some dietary changes. This post is representative of how we both enjoy food, but play to each of our delectations. Megan is gluten free and limits her dairy intake.
When she agreed to be a blog post guest, I thought about this Butternut Squash Soup with Pork Belly Croutons recipe. My husband came across it years ago in a William and Sonoma magazine. It’s on heavy rotation in The Bell House come Fall and Winter. Even though the original recipe calls for pork belly and cream, it is the perfect dish to revamp for fitting into Megan’s food style.
This post includes both recipes: Vegan by Megan and Pork Belly by Kelly.
Enjoy! Both soups will serve 8 people a large bowl.
FIRST STEPS FOR BOTH VEGAN AND PORK BELLY:
1 large (3 pound) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
3 large carrots, peeled and cut to the size of the butternut squash cubes
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the prepared squash and carrots in olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the veggies in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 30-45 minutes or until browned and fork tender.
PREPARATION TIP: We doubled these ingredients because we were making both kinds of soup. Go ahead and double it, freeze it and reheat it for those busy weeknights. Thaw in the refrigerator over night.
While the veggies are roasting, gather the rest of the ingredients.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP: PORK BELLY BY KELLY
The roasted butternut squash and carrots
10 ounces of pork belly, cut into strips about 1/2 in x 1 inch
1 teaspoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups of chicken stock
1 teaspoon of French Thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup of heavy cream
PREPARATION TIP: For smooth cooking in the kitchen, chop, cut, measure, and gather all your ingredients before starting the cooking process. The French call this, “mise en place.”
In a Dutch oven over medium heat, warm 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Add the pork belly: cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the pork is crispy. Remove the croutons from the pot and set aside. Empty the grease from the pan.
PREPARATION TIP: Don’t throw the grease down the sink, unless you like paying plumbers to come to your house. Find a used glass jar and dedicate it as the “grease pit.” When the jar is full, throw it away. There are ways to reuse bacon/pork belly grease, use the google machine to find out how.
Add the 2 tablespoons of butter, the onion and the apple. Cook, stirring occasionally for 25-30 minutes or until the mixture is nice and caramelized.
Add the garlic and cook for one minute or until fragrant. Pour in the chicken stock, thyme and bay leaf. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.
REMOVE the bay leaf! Work in batches to blend the squash, carrots and soup together. BE CAREFUL! This is HOT stuff.
Once all blended, return the soup to the pot. Bring the soup back to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add the heavy cream and give it a taste. Adjust the salt and pepper as needed.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the pork belly croutons for some seriously good soup.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP: VEGAN BY MEGAN
The roasted butternut squash and carrots
2 tablespoon of grapeseed oil or olive oil*
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups of vegetable stock*
1 teaspoon of French thyme
1 bay leaf
1 can of coconut cream*
Cinnamon, for garnish*
*The process is still the same, only some ingredients have changed. These are the changes we made to the recipe.
Add the 2 tablespoons of oil , the onion and the apple. Cook, stirring occasionally for 25-30 minutes or until the mixture is nice and caramelized.
Add the garlic and cook for one minute or until fragrant. Pour in the vegetable stock, thyme and bay leaf. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and work in batches to blend the squash, carrots and soup together. BE CAREFUL! This is HOT stuff.
Once all blended, return the soup to the pot. Bring the soup back to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add the coconut cream and give it a taste. Adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle on some cinnamon. This was Megan’s mom’s idea. I was struggling with what I wanted to garnish the vegan soup with and she brought on the perfect topper.
PREPARATION TIP: Coconut Cream is high in fat and calories per serving. To lighten up the soup, try coconut milk or cashew milk. The soup may not be as creamy, but still delicious.
Follow Megan on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/megan.m.whitten
Follow her on Instragram @megan_whitten
Shop for her Jewelry at https://www.etsy.com/shop/mwhitten#policies