Winter is my very favorite time to bake and cook. It is so cold and dark outside and I LOVE the coziness of being nestled inside with the delicious smells of something bubbling on the stove or the sweet smell of something baking in the oven. I even start to get more creative in the kitchen, experimenting with new recipes and flavors. However, there are certain old stand-byes that are made over and over again. One of my very favorites is butternut squash soup. This recipe is full of vitamins and fiber and low in fat. A perfect New Year's resolution soup. It is pretty easy to make and freezes well. We eat it plain as a soup but it can also be used as a sauce added to your favorite grain (rice, quinoa, couscous, you name it!). Bet you could sneak a little into a mac and cheese recipe for your kids, too! I tend to cook this one with whatever I have on hand so I jotted down amounts and took pictures as I went. So here goes:
Gather all your ingredients;
I started out with two small butternut squashes. I weighed them on the food scale and they weighed 3 LBS.
Next up, a large sweet potato. Nope. Not a yam, a sweet potato. Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a yam and a sweet potato? Me too! So I looked into it and apparently what we think of as a yam here in the U.S (the orange one as opposed to the white-ish one) is actually a sweet potato. Yams are a different kind of tuber all together that come from Africa. Somebody decided (for labeling purposes) to call the white fleshed one a sweet potato and the orange fleshed one a yam. There is tons of information on the internet but I liked this article by the Huffington Post . Who gives a yam, anyway. Back to the task at hand.
Start by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the butternut squash down the center and scoop out the seeds. If you want, you could rinse and toast these with a little sea salt and/or garlic salt until browned and use them as a garnish on your soup or just for a delicious snack.
I brushed them with olive oil and and sprinkled a little salt on top. Next, peel and cut the sweet potato into chunks and lightly oil and salt them.
Here are the sweet potatoes ready to go. I also sprayed the pyrex dish lightly with oil. Isn't that orange color so pretty!! It looks so vitamin-y doesn't it? I feel healthy just looking at it. I baked them for about an hour and 15 minutes (I use a fork to spear it and if it feels soft and mushes easily, it's ready.) Here is what they look like after baking:
Here are the sweet potatoes:
The cooked squash measured 2 1/2 cups when all was said and done and the sweet potato worked out to be one cup worth. I usually split this process into two days. The first day I roast the vegetables and store them in the fridge. The next day, I make the soup. So here is the soup part;
Get a nice heavy bottomed sauce pan and add three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Then add three to four cloves of garlic (I put mine through a garlic press but if you don't have one, just chop finely.) Now you want to add your ginger:
Well, what this unfortunate root lacks in looks, luckily, it makes up for in taste and anti-inflammatory properties.
Do you have one of these doo-dads? My mother-in-law got this for us and I can't believe I lived without one for so long! This is a microplane and it works really well for zesting (think orange and lime), grating ( for hard cheeses like parmesan and even for chocolate) and especially well for grated ginger! I grated 1/2 Tablespoon of ginger. Next I cut up one small yellow onion (or 1/2 large onion). Add the garlic, ginger and onion to the saucepan with the olive oil and saute on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add 3 cups of chicken broth. Turn up to heat to bring the broth to a boil. Here is my secret for adding that extra pop of flavor:
I added two Tablespoons of this yummy stuff. I didn't mean to get the reduced sodium (I am a bit of a salt-a-holic myself) but I really love this stuff. I like to add it to rice and pasta, too. It is only 15 calories per teaspoon but it adds such a nice flavor. I think there is an organic version of this as well and a vegetarian one. Anyway, it comes in a paste-ish type consistency and I just drop it into the boiling soup and stir it around until it is dissolved.
Once the broth base is dissolved, I add the roasted squash and sweet potato and once it starts to come to a rolling boil, I lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. You can simmer as long as you like and keep adding more broth. This recipe makes a pretty thick soup so it can easily be a thinner consistency if that is your preference. Once you are done simmering this soup (and your whole house is filled with this delicious aroma), you want to transfer the soup in batches to the blender and puree until smooth. I try to have an even vegetable to broth ratio when blending to ensure an even consistency. My husband says the soup gets "pasty" if it has been over blended so we make ours a little thicker and chunkier but I don't mind it beaten super smooth. You can always add more broth to thin it out to your liking.
Here's what it looks like all blended together.
Now serve and enjoy! This makes approximately six one cup servings but more if you prefer a thinner soup. It freezes beautifully. *TIP: freeze in ice cube trays so that you can control the portion size you wish to defrost. You could pop out enough for a bowl of soup or just pop a few out to use as a sauce for your rice, pasta, and veggies. Of course this tastes amazing with a giant loaf of crusty bread but it goes just as well with a nice crunchy green salad!!! There are many other varieties of this soup that include heavy cream if you are feeling more indulgent but frankly I think it tastes great without it! If you want some garnish you could add the roasted squash seeds sprinkled on top, a dollop of greek yogurt or even some diced avocado. Enjoy!!