I love to cook. I love to eat. I love to spend an hour or two in the kitchen cooking up something amazing every night, but I have to admit, it only happens once or twice a week, if that. Like everyone else, I am constantly trying to balance all that life throws my way. I balance a full time job, night classes, homework, exercise, and quality time with Mike and family. It's a wonder that I have time to socialize, let alone blog. So when it comes to dinner, I try to plan ahead, be efficient, and make it easy on myself, while ensuring that I am getting home-cooked, nutrient-dense meals at least 5 nights a week. My health is foremost, especially since my ability to balance depends on it.
On nights when I am pressed for time and need to study or complete other work, I rely on my oven and single pot meals for dinner. Most of the time, I make enough so Mike and I can have easy to re-heat leftovers later in the week. Recipes like my fresh shell beans w/ roasted heirloom tomatoes, lamb shank ragout, polenta torta, and potato gratin are great examples of meals that entail a small amount of prep work and an hour or more of cooking while you are busy doing other things around the house.
Spiced winter squash soup is yet another example of a quick and easy nourishing meal. Simply cube your favorite winter squash and apple varieties, add some quartered onions and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until fragrant and tender. Transfer to your food processor or blender, add a dash of nutmeg, cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice, a pinch of sea salt and blend until smooth. You can adjust the thickness of the soup by adding a small amount of coconut or almond milk, or water. This soup is extremely flavorful and rich - the perfect comfort on a cold Autumn evening.
I used butternut squash for this recipe, but you could also use pumpkin, acorn, kobocha, or other dense winter squash. The Santa Barbara Farmers Market is practically bursting at the seams with squash this time of year, so you should not have any trouble locating the perfect type. As for apples, I visited Windrose Farms and selected 4 or 5 different heirloom varieties from the 10 or more that they had available that day - Bill and Barbara are always available to provide a flavor profile of each variety. Pick crisp, tart apples to balance the sweetness of the squash. Or be bold and pick blindly - the soup will still be out of this world.
spiced squash soup
1 medium winter squash
2-3 small sweet onions
butter, ghee, or other heat stable fat
homemade chicken stock, water, homemade nut milk or coconut milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peel and cube squash into 1/2" chunks. Reserve seeds. Do not peel apples, but core and cube into 1/2" chunks. Peel onions and cut into quarters.
Toss all in fat to lightly coat. Spread evenly in ceramic or glass baking dish and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until squash, apple and onion are fragrant and tender.
Rinse reserved squash seeds to clean off excess squash. In a small bowl, mix seeds with a sprinkle of olive oil, salt and spice. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and spread seeds evenly across it. Bake in oven until seeds begin to make popping sound or until toasted through. Remove from oven and let cool.
When squash, apple and onion are done, remove from oven and while still hot, transfer roasted items to a blender or food processor. Add 1-2 tsp spices and blend until smooth.
Add stock, water, or milk until desired thickness is met. If needed, add more sea salt and/or spices to taste.
Sprinkle with toasted seeds and serve.
*equal parts nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves, or pumpkin pie spice