BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP: Fills You Up With Flavor, Not Calories!

butternut squash soup textIt’s autumn – that time of year when the days get shorter, the air a little brisker, and the markets display all kinds and colors of winter squash. While, of course, we appreciate them for their beauty – and sometimes cuteness – they’re actually edible, delicious, and filled with nutrients and fiber.

This recipe for BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP is particularly tasty…and extremely low in calories! Bonus: it’s quick to prepare!!!

NOTE: Anyone who’s ever risked life and limb by attempting to slice through a winter squash, may have sworn off cooking with one. BUT…I have the answer: the microwave!!! (This, of course, may not work with a giant pumpkin.)

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP – makes 7 cups

  • 4 T butter
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 3 lb butternut squash
  • 5 cups water
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (dark or light – I use dark)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • optional:  Cinnamon Croutons (recipe follows)

Thoroughly wash butternut squash. Place whole in microwave and cook 3 minutes. (Don’t bother piercing it – it won’t explode.) Flip it and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and let cool. Once it’s cool enough to handle, cut off the head, then slice through it, exposing the seeds. (Yikes! This sounds ghoulish!!!) Scrape out fibers and seeds and set aside.

In a large stockpot (such as a Dutch oven), melt the butter. Add in shallots and sauté on medium 4 minutes.butternut squash soup6 Add in the seeds and fibers. Sauté another 4 minutes on medium. butternut squash soup7Add in the water and salt, bringing to a boil. butternut squash soup8While liquid is heating, slice the squash (unpeeled) into chunks. Place them cut side down on a steamer basket. butternut squash soup2When the liquid has come to a boil, drop in the steamer basket and cover. Decrease flame to maintain a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove basket from liquid, letting squash cool enough to handle.

Place a strainer over a container and pour liquid through it. Discard seeds and fibers. butternut squash soup3Once squash is cooled, scrap squash from its peel, discarding peel. Put squash into a blender and add enough of the liquid to purèe squash. (Depending on the size of your blender, you may have to do this in batches.) butternut squash soup4Empty purèe into the now-empty stockpot. Add in brown sugar and cream. Heat over medium to just before boiling. Taste for seasoning.butternut squash soup5

CINNAMON BREAD CRUMBS

  • 2 slices white bread – good quality
  • 1 T butter, melted
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Remove and discard crust from bread. Cut slices into 1/2″ cubes and place in bowl. Mix in sugar and cinnamon, then stir in melted butter.

Pour onto cookie sheet and bake at 350º F for about 8 minutes, stirring midway.croutons

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GAZPACHO – Chilled Soup For A Hot Day!

gazpacho textSummer’s here and sometimes I just don’t feel like cooking….but I want a homemade meal. Gazpacho is the answer! It takes only a few minutes to prepare, NO COOKING, extremely low in calories, and it uses ingredients that are fresh from the garden (or farmer’s market).

This soup is best served icy cold, so I like to make it the day before.

I’ve included a recipe for garlic croutons for you adventurous souls up for a wee bit of cooking, but you can always purchase them, if you like.

GAZPACHO – makes about 6 cups

  • 2 T sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1½ large beefsteak tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion (such as Maui, Vidalia, or shallots), diced
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2½ cups tomato juice
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco Sauce (use more or less depending on taste)

Into a large glass or ceramic bowl combine the vinegar, salt, and black pepper.

Slice tomatoes in half around the equator. Remove pulp and seeds by poking them out with your finger. Chop pulp and flesh into bite-sized pieces. Place all of the tomatoes into the bowl (including seeds).

Cut off and discard stem, seeds, and filaments of red pepper. Chop pepper into bite-sized pieces and add to bowl.

Cut cucumber in half. Remove skin from one half. Slice both pieces lengthwise in half. Scoop out and discard seeds by scraping them with a spoon. Cut cucumber into bite-sized pieces and add to bowl.

Add pressed garlic and diced onion into the bowl. Stir all together and let set 5 minutes.

Stir in tomato juice and Tabasco. Cover and chill at least 8 hours.

GARLIC CROUTONS – makes 3 cups

  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups 1/2″ bread cubes (cut from Italian or French loaf, or purchased)

In a small bowl combine olive oil, garlic, and salt. Let set 20 minutes. Strain into mixing bowl, discarding garlic.

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Add in the bread cubes and stir to coat cubes. Pour onto a jellyroll pan, spreading them out. Bake until lightly browned – about 15 minutes, stirring now and then.

RED LENTIL SOUP: A Quick, Guilt-Free Delight!

red lentil soup textIn my ongoing attempt to post bathing-suit friendly recipes, I decided to turn to RED LENTIL SOUP. Enjoy it either as a meal unto itself, or as a starter to curb your appetite before the higher-caloric main course.

We often think of homemade soups as time consuming so, instead, we reach for the can opener. While it’s true that some soups can take hours to steep, this RED LENTIL SOUP is NOT one of them. It can be in your bowl in 30 minutes with very little bother.

NOTE: This soup needs to be seasoned well or it’ll just taste bland. Don’t be afraid of using salt – salt usage in the home kitchen isn’t a problem like it is with fast food or prepared foods.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: If you have garam masala (a spice blend) in your pantry and want to substitute it instead of the ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, coriander, & cumin, then use 2 tsp.

RED LENTIL SOUP – makes about 7 cups

  • 2 T butter
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1¾ salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (for recipe click:  Vegetable Stock)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1½ cups dried red lentils, rinsed
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

In large pot, melt butter. Add in onions and 1 tsp salt. Sauté about 5 minutes, until translucent – don’t brown. Remove from heat.

Add in pepper, ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, coriander, and cumin (or the garam masala). Return to heat for 2 minutes to bloom flavors. Stir in tomato paste and garlic, and cook 1 more minute.

Pour in vegetable stock, water, and lentils. Bring to boil then simmer uncovered about 15 minutes – until lentils are soft. Whisk soup vigorously 30 seconds to cream the lentils (don’t use blender or food processor).

Stir in lemon juice, 3/4 tsp salt, and cilantro. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.

WILD RICE & MUSHROOM SOUP – Mmm Mmm Good!

WLD RICE & MUSHROOM SOUP

WLD RICE & MUSHROOM SOUP

We’re getting into serious holiday indulgence time. It’s hard to resist that luscious piece of fudge, cheesy hors d’oeurves, and cups of eggnog. But those calories add up, producing unwanted pounds and New Year’s resolutions.

Since I don’t like to deprive myself at social gatherings, I try to make low calorie meals at home to keep things balanced. Soup is always a winner. It’s filling, warms you up, and often is low in calories.

WILD RICE & MUSHROOM SOUP is such a soup. It does take some time to make since wild rice needs about 45 minutes to soften, but is well worth it. I, actually, find this soup addictive – often going back for seconds and sneaking in a third later in the evening. But at about 170 calories per cupful, why not?

NOTE: In scanning the ingredients list below, you may be leery about the butter and cream involved. Don’t be! This recipe makes a LOT of soup, so the fat is diluted per cupful. The butter and cream add richness.

WILD RICE & MUSHROOM SOUP – makes 11 cups

  • 8 oz (about 1 cup) wild rice, raw
  • 8¼ cups water, divided
  • 2¼ tsp salt, divided  (I use kosher)
  • 1 clove garlic, whole & peeled
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 T butter, salted
  • 1 lb crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup sherry
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest, packed
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Into an ovenproof saucepan or tall sided casserole bowl, stir together 4 cups of the water (you can boil it first to speed things along), rice, 3/4 tsp of the salt, the whole garlic clove, baking soda, and thyme. Cover and cook in the oven at 375º F for about 40-45 minutes. Taste test the rice after 40 minutes to see if it’s done. Remember, it’s not like soft white rice – there’s a chew to wild rice.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the mushrooms. In a skillet, melt butter. Turn flame up to medium high and add the mushrooms, pressed garlic, tomato paste, pepper, and the remaining 1½ tsp of salt.  Uncovered, bring to low boil, and cook off all the liquid. This takes about 15 minutes.

When rice is done, pour through a strainer that’s placed over a container. You want to save the water. Add enough additional water to equal 3 cups total. Remove and discard the garlic.

When mushrooms are done, pour in the sherry and cook for 2 minutes.

Put the dried shiitake mushrooms into a blender and grind them into a powder on high.

Into a large saucepan (this could be the saucepan you used to cook the rice), combine the mushroom/sherry mixture, ground shiitakes, soy sauce, 4 cups water, and the 3 cups rice water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Make a slurry by stirring together the cornstarch and 1/4 cup water to make a paste. (Don’t do this ahead of time – it becomes hard). Slowly whisk slurry into the soup. Add in drained rice, lemon zest, chives, and cream. Correct seasoning, if needed. Cover and let rest for about 20 minutes.

Heat and serve.