Quick Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped (or 1t. ground dry sage)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 cups fat-free chicken broth

1 1/2 lbs butternut squash (peeled, seeded, cubed)

parmesan cheese (Garnish)

Directions:

1

Add oil, garlic and onion to large stockpot over medium heat.

2

Saute for 3-4 minutes.

3

Add sage, salt, pepper, broth and squash.

4

Bring to a boil.

5

Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes (or until squash has a tender consistency).

6

Use stick blender to lightly puree, leaving some chunks, or puree half of the soup in a food processor or blender and return to pot.

7

Garnish with parmesan cheese and more fresh sage (if desired).

Total Time:      35 mins

Prep Time:        10 mins

Cook Time:       25 mins

How to Make a World’s Best Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sweet italian sausage
  • 3/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 28 ozs crushed tomatoes
  • 12 ozs tomato paste
  • 13 ozs tomato sauce (canned)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsps white sugar
  • 11/2 tsps basil leaves (dried)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper (ground)
  • 4 tbsps fresh parsley (chopped)
  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 16 ozs ricotta cheese
  • egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 lb mozzarella cheese (sliced)
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
    • PREP  30 mins
    • COOK    2 hrs  30 mins
    • READY IN  3 hrs 15 mins

    Directions

    1. In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
    2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
    3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
    4. To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.
    5. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

UN says it can’t feed one million hungry Syrians

GENEVA: The World Food Program said Tuesday it is unable to help an estimated one million Syrians who are going hungry, blaming a lack of security in the war-stricken country.    

This month, the agency aims to help 1.5 million of the 2.5 million Syrians whom the Syrian Arab Red Crescent says need food aid, spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said.

The poor security and the agency’s inability to use the Syrian port of Tartous for shipments means that a large number of people in the some of the country’s hardest hit areas will not get help, she said.

”Our main partner, the Red Crescent, is overstretched and has no more capacity to expand further,” Byrs said.

She also said that the agency has temporarily pulled its staff out of its offices in the Syrian cities of Homs, Aleppo, Tartous and Qamisly due to the rising dangers in those areas.

But in December, WFP was able to enter for the first time in many months some hard-to-reach areas near the Turkish border, she said.

The Syria crisis began with peaceful protests in March 2011 but has since shifted into a civil war. At least 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to a recent UN estimate.

More than 60 dead in Air strike on Syria Bakery

BEIRUT: More than 60 civilians were killed on Sunday in a strike by Syrian regime warplanes on people queueing outside a bakery in the rebel-held town of Halfaya in the central province of Hama, a watchdog said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which had earlier reported “dozens” killed, said the death toll could rise as at least 50 people had also been critically wounded.

The Local Coordination Committees activist group denounced “the massacre committed by regime forces,” and said Halfaya was going through a humanitarian crisis with food shortages because of the regime’s siege of the area.

The LCC said dozens of people had been queueing outside the bakery after not having had any bread for several days.

Bin Laden movie “Zero Dark Thirty” arrives, mired in controversy

Director and producer of the movie Kathryn Bigelow waves at the premiere of ''Zero Dark Thirty''at the Dolby theatre in Hollywood, California December 10, 2012. The movie opens in the US on January 11. — Reuters Photo

NEW YORK: Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow could have made a testosterone-fueled shoot-’em-up Hollywood version of the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.

Instead, she and screenwriter Mark Boal turned “Zero Dark Thirty” into a more complex look at the decade-long hunt for the al Qaeda leader, including a frank presentation of US torture and previously undisclosed details of the mission to hunt down the man behind the September 11 attacks.

When the film opens in limited US release on Wednesday, Bigelow and Boal want audiences to disregard a year of controversies, including claims, which they have denied, that the film makers were leaked classified information.

“It’s about a look inside the intelligence community. The strength and power and courage and dedication and tenacity and vulnerability of these women and men,” Bigelow, 61, told Reuters in a joint interview with Boal.

Bigelow won an Academy Award in 2010 for “The Hurt Locker,” about US army bomb disposal experts in Iraq. She says her latest movie puts the audience at the center of the quest to find bin Laden, and gives a perspective of the US intelligence community and how its methods changed in the years following the September 11 attacks.

“It’s a controversial topic, it’s a topic that has been endlessly politicized. The film has been mischaracterised for a year and a half and we would love it if people would go and see it and judge for themselves,” Boal said.

The action thriller has emerged as an Oscar front-runner after picking up multiple early awards and nominations from Hollywood groups.

FROM TORA BORA TO ABBOTTABAD

When bin Laden was killed by Navy commandos in  May 2011, Bigelow was only months away from shooting a film about the failed bid to find him in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan during the US -led invasion a decade earlier.

She quickly revised the project.

“Zero Dark Thirty” opens not long after the September 11 attacks with graphic scenes of interrogation, including water boarding, sexual humiliation and a detainee being forced into a box.

It stars Jessica Chastain as a CIA officer called “Maya” who uses intelligence gleaned from brutal interrogations, electronic surveillance and old-fashioned spying to track down bin Laden through his use of couriers.

The opening scenes of torture, which are seen in the movie as yielding both correct and false information from prisoners, have inflamed debate in the United States.

Bigelow and Boal said the film is not meant to pass judgment – positive or negative – on such interrogation. “What we are trying to show, is that it (torture) happened. Which I think is not that controversial,” said Boal.

“It’s obviously an ongoing debate. It’s a debate within the community of people who are experts and I am sure that debate will continue for many years,” he added.

Bigelow points out that much of the second half of the film shows agents using other methods such as electronic surveillance.

The movie shifts between locations, including secret CIA centers in foreign countries known as Black sites, the Pakistan city of Islamabad and Camp Chapman, in Khost, Afghanistan. It is not meant to be an accurate depiction of all the players involved in hunting the al Qaeda leader, Bigelow and Boal said.

REAL AND COMPOSITE CHARACTERS

Instead, it tells the story through the eyes of Maya, fresh-faced and not long in the field, battling security threats, CIA bureaucracy and unsupportive bosses to eventually track bin Laden to his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

“She is based on a real person, and there are other people who also contributed who are not represented, whose work I hope is reflected in her character – it’s a character in a movie and not a documentary,” Boal said.

“I wanted to put the audience in the perspective of those people, those men and women on the ground who are conducting this hunt,” said Bigelow. “It’s ten years compressed into two plus hours…But it’s really the rhythm of the hunt that creates the rhythm of the movie.”

Chastain told Reuters in an interview that the woman she portrays is still active. The Washington Post has reported that the agent is now in her thirties, remains undercover and while receiving the agency’s highest medal, was denied a promotion.

Boal, a freelance journalist turned screenwriter who won a best screenplay Oscar for “The Hurt Locker”, would not elaborate except to say that the agent was “a real person.”

“I spoke to a number of people, I gathered as many first hand accounts as I could,” he said. He has denied being leaked, or asking for, any classified material.

Early reviews of the film, which will be released more widely on January 11, have been positive, especially for Bigelow’s sense of pacing and suspense. The Hollywood Reporter said it “could well be the most impressive film Bigelow has made, as well as possibly her most personal.”

Pakistani labour with fruit, vegetables, chisels and plastic

Pakistani labourers carry baskets of bananas at a fruit market in Lahore on December 7, 2012.
Pakistani labourers carry baskets of bananas at a fruit market in Lahore on December 7, 2012.

Pakistani labourers carry baskets of bananas at a fruit market in Lahore on December 7, 2012.
A Pakistani vendor sells lemons at a fruit market in Lahore on December 7, 2012.

A Pakistani vendor sells lemons at a fruit market in Lahore on December 7, 2012.

Pakistani artisans chisel off pieces of mountain rock to form fancy bricks in Karachi on December 7, 2012. The community of artisans, who have been carving out fancy bricks for centuries, say their dying trade is facing existential threat due to the fragile economy in the South Asian nation, where high-end construction material can cost ten times more than regular cement bricks.
Pakistani artisans chisel off pieces of mountain rock to form fancy bricks in Karachi on December 7, 2012. The community of artisans, who have been carving out fancy bricks for centuries, say their dying trade is facing existential threat due to the fragile economy in the South Asian nation, where high-end construction material can cost ten times more than regular cement bricks.

Pakistani artisans chisel off pieces of mountain rock to form fancy bricks in Karachi on December 7, 2012. The community of artisans, who have been carving out fancy bricks for centuries, say their dying trade is facing existential threat due to the fragile economy in the South Asian nation, where high-end construction material can cost ten times more than regular cement bricks.

A Pakistani artisan chisels off pieces of mountain rock to form fancy bricks in Karachi on December 7, 2012. The community of artisans, who have been carving out fancy bricks for centuries, say their dying trade is facing existential threat due to the fragile economy in the South Asian nation, where high-end construction material can cost ten times more than regular cement bricks.
A labourer cuts the leaves of a cauliflower during harvest on a field in Quetta December 7, 2012.

A labourer cuts the leaves of a cauliflower during harvest on a field in Quetta December 7, 2012.
A labourer cuts up bottles at a plastic recycling factory in Lahore December 7, 2012.

A labourer cuts up bottles at a plastic recycling factory in Lahore December 7, 2012.

Labourers separate bottles by colour at a plastic recycling factory in Lahore December 7, 2012.
Labourers separate bottles by colour at a plastic recycling factory in Lahore December 7, 2012.
A labourer cuts the edges of bottles to prepare them for shredding at a plastic recycling factory in Lahore December 7, 2012.
A labourer cuts the edges of bottles to prepare them for shredding at a plastic recycling factory in Lahore December 7, 2012.

A labourer carries recyclable shreds from plastic bottles at a plastic recycling factory in Lahore December 7, 2012.
A labourer carries recyclable shreds from plastic bottles at a plastic recycling factory in Lahore December 7, 2012.
A labourer pours crushed plastic into a pool of water at a plastic recycling factory in Lahore December 7, 2012.

A labourer pours crushed plastic into a pool of water at a plastic recycling factory in Lahore December 7, 2012.
A labourer sorts out coloured recyclable shreds from plastic bottles at a plastic recycling factory in Lahore December 7, 2012.
A labourer sorts out coloured recyclable shreds from plastic bottles at a plastic recycling factory in Lahore December 7, 2012.

Pakistani labourers carry baskets of bananas at a fruit market in Lahore on December 7, 2012.