Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Health and Healing in a Pot: Coconut Butternut Squash Soup!

photo from Vegan Holiday Kitchen

Ahhh. Soup. Nothing is more comforting or healing. I make countless pots of soup in the fall and winter: lentil soup, carrot soup, butternut squash soup, and of course, my famous "un-chicken" noodle soup.  

Soup is perfect for breakfast, lunch and supper. I'll sip soup all day on a Monday if I overindulge in too much food over the weekend. Soup cleanses my system- like the old-fashioned Italian Belly Wash. There's really something to all that!  It's great for weight loss, too. Have a soup course every evening before dinner. You'll eat less!

Soup can be a mind, body, spirit experience when you make it yourself. A jar or can of soup you dump into a pot or stick in the microwave to reheat, just doesn't cut it. You'll never get the full effect of soup unless it's homemade.

That being said, here is a wonderful recipe I found for Coconut Butternut Squash Soup. This is pure health and healing in a pot.  If you don't believe me--take a look at some of the benefits of Butternut Squash:

Health benefits of Butternut squash

  • Butternut squash contains many vital poly-phenolic anti-oxidants and vitamins. It is very low in calories; provides just 45 cal per 100 g. It contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; but is rich source of dietary fiber and phyto-nutrients. Squash is often recommended for cholesterol and weight reduction programs.
  • It has more vitamin A than that in pumpkin. At 10630 IU per 100 g, it is perhaps the single vegetable source in the cucurbitaceae family with highest levels of vitamin-A, providing about 354% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for vision. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A helps body protect against lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • Butternut squash has natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds like α and ß-carotenes, cryptoxanthin-ß, and lutein. These compounds convert to vitamin A inside the body and deliver the same protective functions of vitamin A on the body.
  • It is rich in B-complex group of vitamins like folates, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid.
  • It has a similar mineral profile as pumpkin, containing adequate levels of minerals like iron, zinc, copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Convinced?  Good! Now take out your big soup pot and get cooking!

Vegan Holiday Kitchen’s Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

Once you’ve got the squash baked, this soup comes together quickly. The mellow flavors of squash, kale and red onions synergize delectably and look gorgeous together as well.

1 large butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil or other vegetable oil
1 large yellow or sweet white onion, chopped
1 medium apple, any variety, peeled and diced
2 cups prepared vegetable broth, or 2 cups water with 1 vegetable bouillon cube
2 teaspoons good-quality curry powder
2 teaspoons grated fresh or jarred ginger, or more, to taste
Pinch of ground nutmeg or allspice
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 medium red onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 good-size bunch kale (about 10 to 12 ounces)

1. To bake the squash, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut in half and place halves, cut side up, in a foil-lined shallow baking dish and cover tightly with more foil. Bake for 30 to 50 minutes, until you can easily pierce the flesh with a knife. Scoop out and set aside.

2. Heat about half the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Add the apple, squash, broth and spices. Bring to a steady simmer, then cover and simmer gently until the apples are tender, about 10 minutes.

4. Transfer the solids to a food processor with a slotted spoon, in batches if need be, and process until smoothly puréed, then transfer back to the soup pot. Or better yet, simply insert an immersion blender into the pot and process until smoothly puréed.

5. Stir in the coconut milk and return the soup to a gentle simmer. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until well heated through. Season with salt and pepper. If time allows, let the soup stand off the heat for an hour or two, then heat through as needed before serving.

6. Just before serving, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet. Add the red onions and sauté over low heat until golden and soft.

7. Meanwhile, strip the kale leaves off the stems and cut into thin shreds. Stir together with the onions in the skillet, adding just enough water to moisten the surface. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the kale is bright green and just tender, about 5 minutes.

8. To serve, ladle soup into each bowl, then place a small mound of kale and onion mixture in the center.


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