Since we are well on our way through the fall, and many places are already seeing an inch or two of snow, we are all craving foods that will comfort us and keep us warm
For a lot of people, the first thing to come to mind when thinking of comfort foods is not the most healthy. Dishes with fattier cuts of meat such as brisket (think a Reuben sandwich) or pork shoulder (think pulled pork) and lots of butter (think mashed potatoes). Not to mention pizza or mac and cheese, dishes we are tempted by year round. In moderation, these are all ok. Most of these dishes are connected to a memory of childhood or a favorite restaurant or holiday and a single bite can take you right back to that moment.
Soups are a great way to bridge the gap between unhealthy comfort foods and foods that may fit more easily into your personal diet goals. Be warned, however, soups can lie on either end of the spectrum. Clam or corn chowder and broccoli and cheddar soup can be deceiving as a lot of that delicious flavor comes from the use of lots of cream, butter and/or cheese.
This is another instance where homemade is always the way to go. When you cook something yourself, you can add anything to it you want and cater it to your exact tastes. This can seem intimidating at first but the payoff, in the long run, is well worth it. The more you cook a particular dish, the more it becomes your own as you are able to add your twist to it, making small changes each time. Once you become confident cooking for yourself, you can start sharing your food with others. For me, there is nothing more rewarding than sharing food with someone and having them be as excited about it as I am.
Butternut squash is one of my favorites and its arrival just in time for winter could not be better. This squash is naturally sweet and contains a lot of Vitamin A and potassium. All it takes to draw out the natural flavor is some time roasting in the oven.
By minimizing the use of butter or oil, we can cut down on a lot of the fat that can be found in pre-made or restaurant versions of this soup. For this reason, I have also made milk or almond milk optional. If you like the added creaminess, you can add as much or as little as you want, or omit it entirely. The hardest part about this recipe is peeling the squash itself. If you are confident with a knife you can go that route, as in the video below, or to be safe a vegetable peeler will work just fine. Once peeled you will need to scrape out the seeds with a spoon and cut the remaining squash into roughly 1-inch cubes.
While you are cutting the squash, you can have the oven heating up to around 350ºF. Once you have the squash cubed throw it in a bowl and spray it down with some nonfat cooking spray (feel free to use olive oil or coconut oil if you would like), just enough to coat the squash. Toss it around with some salt and pepper and now it is ready for the oven.
To save time while the squash is roasting, you can get your onion and garlic diced up and ready to go. The size of the cut isn’t incredibly important here, as everything is going to end up in a blender at the end anyway. After about half an hour you can start cooking the onions, as the squash should only take 30-45 minutes. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pot and allow the onions to cook down. Once the onions are soft add the garlic, I wouldn’t recommend adding the garlic at the same time as the onions, as it will cook faster and burn, adding a bitter flavor.
When the squash is “fork tender” (meaning there is no resistance when pierced with a fork or knife), add it to the pot and stir it around with the onions to combine. You can now add the stock or water. This will allow the squash to cook down a little more and make it easier to blend in the next step.
Now its time to break out the blender or food processor. One note on which one you use: there is a trade-off. The food processor will break everything down a lot easier than a blender, but the blender will yield a smoother soup. Depending on the quality of the blender, you may have to continuously shut it off and stir things around to make sure everything is blending consistently and use smaller batches. I just set a mixing bowl or another pot on the side to separate the blended from the unblended.
Once blended, you can serve immediately if it is still hot, or allow it to cool down before putting it in the fridge to enjoy throughout the week on those especially cold nights. I would recommend hiding it in the back where no one else can find it!
See the full recipe here!
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