Growing up in New England I have developed a very dysfunctional relationship with the winter. I try to love it, I really do.
I annually embrace the changing colors of fall, the first flake of snow, the smell of firewood burning from neighborhood chimneys, the quiet crunching sound of snow beneath faux-furry boots…but alas, the novelty always wears off. As soon as the thermostat drops below 32 degrees, I am left scurrying around outdoors, in a suffocating amount of layers of long underwear, squeezing my chin to my chest to protect my neck from wind chill, mumbling under my breath to no one else but myself, that “I’m so cold…”…channeling Kate Winslet in the last scene in Titanic…”never let go, Jack….”
The one thing that does not lose its novelty in the winter months however, is the comforting warmth of a hearty winter soup. I pretty much turn into a soup-ivore as soon as it drops below 50 degrees. Consequently, have found some fantastic recipes for soups that I would love to share with you all.
First up is a new discovery from Better Homes and Gardens website: bettertv.com…there’s even a video. The recipe is for an extremely simple, easy, and DELICIOUS butternut squash soup.
Butternut Squash is one of my favorite foods to eat in the fall and winter and so easy to find locally. Plus with the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg mulling in your kitchen….mmmm
I’ve made it a few times now, the second time I added an extra cinnamon stick, low sodium Organic Chicken broth, some nutmeg, some ground cloves and substituted the sugar for Splenda’s Brown sugar blend. It was a healthier version that got rave reviews…So here is My healthier version of BetterTv.com’s ….
Butternut Squash Soup:
2 larger butternut squash, halved and seeded
3 tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons of Splenda brown Sugar Blend
3 large garlic cloves chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. of ground cloves
5 cups of Low-sodium Organic Chicken Broth
**(1 container of chicken broth is about 4 cups, so instead of opening another, I substituted that last cup for 1 chicken bullion cube with 1 cup hot water)
1. Oil a large baking sheet; bake squash, cut side down, for 1 hour at 375 F.
2. Remove peel from squash and discard and cut of the squash a bit. It should be pretty soft and malleable already so just cut into chunks.
3. In a large pot, heat oil and add onion.
4, Add ginger, brown sugar, garlic, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, and cloves. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent.
4. Add squash and chicken broth; bring to boil and then reduce heat and simmer another 10 minutes.
5. Discard cinnamon stick.
6. Add a few cups of your mixture to a blender and puree until a funnel appears at the top. Pour pureed soup into large bowl, add more mixture to blender, puree again, and so on. Serve with a little chopped parsley or creme fraiche, if desired.
**I served this with warm french onion bread with a tiny bit of homemade maple butter on it. It’s kind of like having desert with your entree…
***You can also experiment by adding apples, apple cider and sage to this recipe…just play around!
I improvised the maple butter:
For the maple butter:
1. Heat 1/2 cup of real Organic maple syrup on the stove in a heavy bottom saucepan until boiling.
2. Add in 1 1/2 sticks of butter, let melt, then wisk vigorously for 2 minutes.
3. Pour into a glass container and place in the freezer until solidified.
Spread a tiny bit on the bread and dip into the soup…mmmm
For a Butternut- Pumpkin Soup that’s to die for…
—-> You can also take this above soup recipe and Add in a can of packed pumpkin, then toast some pumpkin seeds to garnish!
My favorite Butternut/Squash soup experiences have been highly memorable.
Moment 1: Cocoa Wah Wah, Cape Town: A delicious Cape Malay spiced butternut Squash soup at Cocoa Wah Wah in Cape Town South Africa. South Africans LOVE their butternut, and their soups are spiced with perfection. There was nothing better on a rainy, windy June winter’s day in Cape town.
I would scuttle down the hill from school to study at this adorable free wifi cafe in Rondebosch, and order a Butternut Soup with a Rooibos tea garnished with a fresh slice of lemon and fresh grated ginger…mmmm. By the end of the semester they knew what I wanted when they saw me coming…
Moment 2. Teatro, Boston: The other week, a friend of mine and I were searching for a quick bite before a movie at Loew’s On the Common in Boston. It was sooo chilly and the wind blew us right in to Teatro. The decor was warm, romantic, inviting, the place was packed for a Sunday evening, and the waiter was very responsive to the fact that we were in a rush to see a movie. We looked down at the well thought out theater-goer italian menu and saw a “Sugar Pumpkin Zuppa with Maple Creme Fraiche” and immediately we knew we needed it. BEST IDEA EVER. Although it’s not butternut, I had to post it. So so so good! A Must TASTE this winter!
Moment 3: The Fireplace, Brookline, MA: Chef Jim Solomon has been known to have the best butternut bisque around town at the classic New England restaurant, The Fireplace, but I needed to see for myself. It was SOOO good! Sipping Butternut Bisque next to a fireplace in the restaurant also may have added to the comfort-food factor…
Now that the holidays are approaching, many of us do not have the luxury of time to make soups from scratch so I found a few store bought substitutes, that, with a little bit of extra spicing, taste like homemade magic…I have tried a LOT of canned soups, and I mean A LOT and these are my two faves!
1. Pacific Foods: I have fallen in love with Pacific Foods line of products, especially their soups. All organic, free range, low sodium, etc. And SOOOOO delicious. I also love that you can buy bigger containers of pre-made soups (to avoid wasting packaging materials), pour as much as you want, then store the rest in the fridge. No can-openers! The soups taste incredibly fresh and are perfectly flavored. Also it’s super healthy with no unnecessary added fat or sugar.
2. Campbell’s V8 Golden Butternut Squash Soup is also a super healthy alternative to homemade soup. However, it is a little less sustainable than Pacific Food’s products.