Curry Spiced Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Soup

My Curry Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Soup, with a little heat from cayenne pepper, warms the soul on cold winter days. This soup is made with two nutrient dense vegetables, which are low in fat, low in carbohydrates and high in dietary fiber.  Winning!

Technically a fruit, the butternut squash has a particularly high level of vitamin A and also has a high level of vitamin C. It has more potassium than a banana and its color indicates an abundance of carotenoids, which is believed to protect against heart disease.

When buying butternut squash, select the fruit that feels heavy for its size with a matte and unblemished skin. A glossy skin indicates that the squash was picked too early and will not be as sweet. Stored in a cool dry place with ventilation, not in the refrigerator, this fruit has a storage life of up to three months!

In an effort to increase the nutritional value of my recipes, I like to incorporate a variety of vegetables.  For this soup, I paired the butternut squash with cauliflower.  Cauliflower is a good source of vitamin C and contains folate. It is also a good source of minerals, including iron, calcium and potassium.

I prefer to roast the butternut squash, cauliflower and apple rather than boiling them to make this soup.  Roasting is one of my favorite ways to cook vegetables and allows the flavors to develop and intensify.

I used a Dutch oven and an immersion blender to make this soup however you can use a blender too. I do recommend investing in an inexpensive immersion blender.  They are easy to clean up and you can use it while the soup is still in the pot.

Serving size: 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 cups of cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • 1 cup finely diced sweet onion (half of a large onion)
  • 1 Granny smith apple, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves or 1 large clove)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (use a pinch of cayenne to start if you do not like it spicy)
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 6 tablespoons crème fraiche (optional)
  • fresh parsley (optional garnish)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.

When preparing the butternut squash, use a very sharp knife. Cut a thin layer off the top and bottom to create a level surface. Then remove the skin using a vegetable peeler and scrape the seeds out with a spoon.

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When cutting the squash, cauliflower and apple, try to create even pieces. This will ensure even roasting.

Toss butternut squash, cauliflower and apple in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Season with salt and pepper and roast in 400F oven for about 25-30 minutes until tender. Turn the fruits and vegetable over at least once to ensure even roasting.

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You may need to remove the apple cubes before the butternut squash or cauliflower is finished roasting.

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In a Dutch oven, sauté onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil until tender and translucent.

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Add garlic cloves, rosemary, curry powder, salt, cumin and cayenne pepper and sauté for another couple of minutes. Remove the onion mixture from heat if the fruits and vegetables are not done roasting to avoid burning the onion and garlic.

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Minced garlic and rosemary.

Once the butternut squash, cauliflower and apple are done roasting, add them to the onion mixture. Add vegetable broth and honey.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until smooth. You can also use a blender. If using a blender, add only a couple ladles full of soup at a time. Place a kitchen towel over the lid and hold down with your hand. This is to prevent the hot liquid from pushing out of the lid and burning your hand. Gently pulse to start, then blend until smooth.

Taste soup and adjust seasoning to your liking. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche on top and garnish with fresh parsley.

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Vegetarian Butternut Squash Chili

How do you feed 30 athlete friends a vegetarian friendly meal, which you can prepare in advance and serve warm with minimal fuss? My Butternut Squash Chili was the winning answer, setting a PR* in my kitchen for nourishing the largest gang of hungry athletes in my house to date. Like an endurance athlete, the chili finished strong, held up to being kept warm for hours and with plenty to go around for seconds, thirds and eh hem, fourths.

A variety of beans keep it interesting; frozen corn kernels add a nice contrast of texture and sweetness while cornmeal is the secret ingredient to thicken it all up.

The chili freezes well and is also vegan and gluten-free.

* In case you are not familiar with the term PR, it’s short for personal record; something triathletes strive to attain, year after year.

Serving size: 10-12

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ pounds butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup finely ground corn meal
  • 4 ½ cups vegetarian broth
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 diced green bell pepper
  • 1 diced red bell pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 4-ounce can dice green chili
  • 2 16-ounce can black beans
  • 2 16-ounce can garbanzo beans
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Optional Ingredients: 

  • sour cream
  • chopped green onion
  • shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Peel the butternut squash with a vegetable peeler. With a very sharp knife, slice off the top and bottom of the butternut squash to create a level surface for it to stand on either end and cut crosswise into 2 halves. Cut each half lengthwise into 2 more halves. Scoop out seeds and stringy parts with a spoon. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes and place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Toss in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, tossing once, until tender. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

In a large 6 quart Dutch oven, heat remaining olive oil. On medium heat, sauté chopped onion until soften. Remove from Dutch oven and set aside.

Add ½ cup vegetable broth and whisk in corn meal over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add, onion, garlic, and chopped bell peppers. Stir over medium heat for another 5 more minutes.

Add remaining vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, green chili, beans, corn, beans, Worcestershire sauce and spices. Simmer for at least 1 hour but 2 hours is recommended.  Season with salt to taste. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and sliced green onion. My favorite way is with a dollop of sour cream and green onion.

 

 

Healthy Potato Leek Soup

The inspiration for my Potato Leek Soup came from my dear friend Kelly, a 10 time Ironman and 2 time 50 mile endurance runner.  This courageous woman is battling leukemia for the second time.  While undergoing chemotherapy, Kelly requested potato leek soup made without cream for lunch.

The potato leek soup also served as a nutritious and tasty breakfast prior to a long run or trail race, where I am running anywhere from 3 to over 6 hours. Chicken Rice Soup and Potato Leek Soup are now my two favorite early morning meals to help fuel my long workouts.  Both also provide potassium.  I usually consume half a bagel or some oatmeal in addition to the soup.  Some races offer broth on the course or soup at the end of the race.  At the finish of this weekend’s trail race, I grabbed warm soup and chased it down with low-fat chocolate milk.  Since I often cannot tolerate solid food immediately after an endurance event, I find that calories in liquid form are the easiest way to get nutrition down.  I personally prefer real food over “recovery” drinks.  Remember, it’s important to consume calories within 20 minutes of your workout.

Leeks belong to a vegetable family called the Allium vegetables which includes garlic and onions and contain many of the same beneficial compounds.   For more information on the nutritional value of leeks, check out this article:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=26

Serving size: 8

Equipment:  Hand held immersion blender or regular blender

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large leeks or 4 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, washed and diced
  • 5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped thyme
  • 7+ cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder (for Kelly, I reduced or omitted this)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • fresh parsley, chopped, to garnish (optional)

Directions:

In a Dutch oven or stock pot, sauté the leeks in olive oil for 8 minutes until the leeks are softened but not brown.

Add chopped garlic, thyme, potatoes and broth.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  If using a hand held immersion blender, puree soup until smooth with no lumps.  Be careful.  The soup will be very hot.  If using a regular blend, allow soup to cool down before pouring into blender.  Once in the blender, puree soup in small batches, using a towel to cover the lid in case the hot mixture escapes.

Add additional broth to obtain the desired consistency.  I prefer it to be a little creamy and loose enough to drink out of a mug.

Stir in chili powder and salt to taste.  It’s important to add a bit at a time and keep tasting.  You can always add more but you can’t take it back out.  Garnish with chopped fresh parsley or croutons.  Add additional broth to soup if it becomes too thick when re-heating.

Use the white and pale green parts of the leek.  Cut the stalk in half length-wise and rise out the layers.  I prefer to remove the outer tougher layer.  Then slice.
Use the white and pale green parts of the leek. Cut the stalk in half length-wise and rise out the layers. I prefer to remove the outer tougher layer. Then slice.

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When re-heating, you can add additional broth to thin out the soup if it gets too thick.
When re-heating, you can add additional broth to thin out the soup if it gets too thick.

Hearty Manhattan Clam Chowder

This is a hearty soup full of flavor, both spicy and sweet with surprises of saltiness from the bits of bacon.   The chowder is a meal in itself, however this spicy broth pairs nicely with my refreshing Beet & Watermelon Salad.  This recipe yields a generous 8-10 servings.  I freeze half of the soup in individual serving size containers for a fast, nutritious and satisfying meal anytime.

Ingredients

  • 5 slices bacon, cut into small squares
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper (green or red bell peppers can be used; I like the color contrast of yellow bell peppers)
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 cups potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 5 – 15 oz clam stock*
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, removed from stems and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (this will definitely add a spicy kick to the soup which I love; try ¼ tsp to start if you don’t like your soup too spicy)
  • 3 cans 6.5 ounce minced clams
  • 2 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes*, chopped and juices reserved
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
  • 4 turns of freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of salt

* NOTE: If you are a gluten-free diet, ensure that the ingredients you are using are gluten-free.

Directions

In a large heavy pot add bacon and render until golden and crispy.  Add onions, celery, bell pepper and carrots and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, until vegetables are softened.  Add garlic and cook for additional 2 minutes.  Add potatoes, clam broth, bay leaves, dried oregano, thyme and crushed red pepper.  Cover and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and continue to cook for 15 additional minutes.  Add clams (for less cloudy and clammy taste, drain clams but I sometimes add the whole can, juice and all).  Add parsley and season with pepper and salt.  Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with some chopped fresh parsley when serving.

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Red or green bell peppers can be used however, I prefer the color contrast of yellow bell peppers.
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Cook the vegetables until softened, about 10 minutes.
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Remove the thyme leaves from the stem and chop roughly.
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Mince 4 large garlic cloves.
This spicy and hearty Manhattan Clam Chowder pairs nicely with my sweet and refreshing Beet & Watermelon Salad.
This spicy and hearty Manhattan Clam Chowder pairs nicely with my sweet and refreshing Beet & Watermelon Salad.

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Chicken vegetable soup, on its own, or with egg noodles and rice, is one of my favorite, satisfying and fast, “go to” meals.  It’s easy to bring to work for lunch or heat up after an evening workout for dinner.  When I’m carbo-loading, I often add cooked rice and eat it on several days during the week prior to a race.  Chicken vegetable and rice soup was part of my 3:30 am breakfast on the morning of my first Ironman.  Unfortunately, that soup came out of a can since I was away from home.  Here is the homemade version that I’ve been making and enjoying for years.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups or ½ of large white onion (chopped)
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 – 32 ounce chicken broth*
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 1 chicken breast with bone and skin on
  • 10 carrots (peeled and sliced about ½ inch thick; I prefer a soup hearty with vegetables so slice the carrots to your thickness preference)
  • 8 celery stocks; slice stalks lengthwise into 3rds or 4ths then dice
  • celery leaves
  • 3 parsley stems with leaves
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 turns of pepper mill (season to taste)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Cooked egg noodle*s or cooked rice (optional)

* NOTE: If you are a gluten-free diet, ensure that the ingredients you are using are gluten-free.

Equipment:

  • 12 quart stock pot
  • Cheesecloth

Directions:

Rinse chicken breast and set aside.  In stock pot, sauté onion in olive oil until softened (about 10 minutes).  Add broth, water and chicken breast to onions.  Place lid on pot an bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

While broth is simmering, make a “mirepoix” by placing the celery leaves, parsley stems, thyme and bay leaf in cheesecloth and tie into a bundle.

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A mirepoix can be a combination of celery, onions, and carrots. There are many mirepoix variations, which can sometimes be just one of these ingredients, or include additional spices. You can add whole peppercorns to this mirepoix.

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Add the mirepoix, carrots, celery, salt and pepper to the pot. Continue to simmer for at least 1 more hour however the longer you simmer the more the flavor will develop.

After an hour or more, remove the chicken.  Remove and discard the chicken skin.  Pull apart meat with a fork and place a few pieces into individual bowls.  Ladle soup with vegetables into individual bowls.  You can add your favorite cooked egg noodles (I like the no-yolk egg noodles) or cooked rice.  If you don’t want the carbs, leave the noodles and rice out.

If you have time to make the soup in advance, chill it in the refrigerator before serving.  The fat will rise to the top and solidify making it easy to spoon off and discard.  Store the cooked chicken separately from the broth and vegetables.  The broth and vegetables freezes well.  You can boil a fresh chicken breast when you are ready to defrost and eat the frozen soup.

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Saute the onions until softened, approximately 10 minutes. Do not allow it to brown.
I prefer a hearty soup, loaded with vegetables.  You can even add parsnips, a root vegetable related to the carrot.
I prefer a hearty soup, loaded with vegetables.
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The leaves inside the celery stalk (top left) adds a lot of flavor to the soup. Use it for your “mirepoix”. The celery stalks can be cut up to any size. I prefer smaller bites of celery with each spoonful of soup.

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