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This time of year is wonderful for taking advantage of the many types of fall vegetables that are overflowing at the market. They are great for making soups and stews, as well as other dishes. Keeping our meals healthy centers around several principles: adding vegetables, keeping the sodium lower by using other spices and herbs, and limiting unhealthy fats. Soups and stews also offer the advantage of preserving all the nutrition that can sometimes be cooked out of a vegetable because all the fluid stays in the pot.
Squash is the vegetable group that we typically think of in the fall. It can be a wonderful base for soup! Pumpkin and butternut squash can be cooked and pureed for a soup base, and then vegetables can be added to that base, either chopped or pureed in. In stews, the squash can be left in chunks along with other veggies and it will add another element, flavor and texture. Squash can also be seasoned and roasted, and even stuffed with other veggies or meats as a side dish or even a main dish.
Rutabagas can also be cooked and chopped up and added to soups and stews, as well as a variety of different potatoes, like gold, purple and sweet. These tubers can also be mixed together and roasted with olive oil, garlic and other herbs and spices for a wonderful side dish. Each of them can also be cooked and mashed. The usual soup standard veggies of celery, carrots, and onions always provide wonderful flavor to start our stock and can be cut into different shapes to vary the dish.
Choosing healthy fats in our cooking applies to our soups, too. Use coconut cream or coconut milk to make a creamy soup that isn’t dairy based. Coconut is an excellent source of healthy fat that has terrific health benefits. Another way to make a “creamy” soup without adding too much fat is to also puree different veggies to add to the soup to make a thicker, creamier texture. Rutabaga, squash and sweet potato are all easy to cook and puree and then add to a broth-based soup to thicken the base. I use an immersion blender right in the pot of soup to puree up the veggies.
Any recipe for soup or stew that calls for meat can be varied to reduce or eliminate the meat portion, if desired. For recipes that contain meat, we can add a larger portion of each vegetable than what the recipe calls for, and a smaller portion of the meat. This allows the soup or stew to remain hearty while upping our percentage of plant-based foods. Remember the rule: 75% of each meal should be plant-based, so this rule can apply to the pot of soup or stew, as well. Use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock for a different flavor and try fresh kale, basil, parsley or cilantro based on the “origin” of the soup. For instance: tomato-based soup with fresh basil or black bean soup with cilantro.
Enjoy the season and all it has to offer. Happy Fall!
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1-2 celery ribs, chopped (about ¾ cup)
- 1-2 carrots, peeled and chopped (about ¾ cup)
- 2 Tbsp grass-fed butter
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped, seeds discarded
- 1 tart green apple, peeled, cored, chopped (squash and apple ratio should be 3:1)
- 3 cups chicken stock or broth (use vegetable broth if desired, but not a tomato based option)
- 1 cup water
- Pinches of nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat a large thick-bottomed pot on medium-high heat. Melt the butter in the pot and let it foam up and recede. Add the onion, carrot and celery and sauté for 5 minutes. Lower the heat if the veggies begin to brown.
- Add the butternut squash, apple, broth and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the squash and carrots have softened.
- Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or work in batches and puree the soup in a standing blender.
- Add pinches of nutmeg, cinnamon and cayenne. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley or chives.
This recipe works well with a cast iron dutch oven, I love my 5.5 quart Staub dutch oven. It is very versatile, and beautiful, too. I leave it out on my stovetop all the time, and use it regularly. The soup can also be done in an Instant Pot or other pressure cooker on the soup/stew cycle.