Here I am to apologize for yet another long absence from blogging, dear loyal readers. Being a full-time dietetics student is taking a lot out of me, combined with chronic health issues that have been wearing me down. I miss blogging regularly, I really do. I miss having a real back-and-forth with my readers and the excitement of trying and posting new recipes and photos all the time. Fortunately, I'm finally starting to feel way better. It's also autumn, which always makes me want to cook and bake. I made an amibitious and wonderful feast for Shabbos last week. I was recovering from a root canal (what fun) so I focused on soft, easy-to-chew foods. We had butter beans sauteed with fresh rosemary, white wine, red pepper flakes and onions (a perennial favorite of ours)... mashed potatoes... spinach sauteed with lemon zest and garlic... and though I rarely make dessert, I actually made two! We had baked apples... and a crumb cake made from Gluten-Free Pantry's Coffee Cake Mix, which was out of this world!
But the highlight of the meal wasn't the decadent dessert, it was the homeade Creamy Butternut Squash & Parsnip Soup. We are both big fans of Pacific Natural Foods' Organic Creamy Butternut Squash Soup and Imagine Foods' Organic Creamy Butternut Squash Soup, which are both kosher (pareve), vegan and gluten-free. We always keep a few containers in the house and eat this otherwise dairy-free soup with a little low-fat sour cream (or my vegan cashew sour cream) and some spicy toasted pumpkin seeds on top - I find it's a healthy and easy way to make a salad or other light fare into a real meal. Soup is also great to fill up on when you're watching your caloric intake, as it's very filling. It is often low in calories, especially if you avoid cream-based or meat-based soups.
I decided to try making butternut squash from scratch for the first time ever, this time around. I wanted to do something a little different, and at the market the parsnips looked fat and wonderful so I decided to give them a shot. The soup turned out to be fantastic, with a perfect swirl of sweet and savory flavors, and I hope some of you will try it out and let me know if you agree. It's got a little kick to it, so reduce the cayenne if you're not into that. It would be perfect for Thanksgiving. It has a thick and creamy consistency but if you like yours a bit thinner, just add more broth, rice milk or water. I haven't frozen it yet but from my experience freezing soups, this one should freeze quite nicely.
Though homemade is always the best, there are times when we can't cook soup from scratch. For those occasions, there happens to be a promotion right now where if you order Imagine Foods' Creamy Butternut Squash Soup through the link I provided you can save 15% if you enter the code HAINGF25 at checkout. [Plus, save an additional 15% when you combine the instant rebate with your Subscribe & Save order--bringing your total savings to 30%. Offer valid through October 31, 2009].
CREAMY BUTTERNUT SQUASH & PARSNIP SOUP
[Gluten-Free / Dairy-Free / Soy-Free / Vegan / Pareve ]
Yield: About 10 servings
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 lbs of cleaned, trimmed butternut squash (approx. 2 medium squash)
2 large parsnips, peeled
2 medium onions, peeled & roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
1-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 cups vegetable broth (if I don't have homemade I use this kind)
2" piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
A pinch of ground cloves
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
1/4 cup amber agave nectar (or other sweetener)
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp rubbed sage
1 1/2 cup rice milk
Cut cleaned, trimmed butternut squash into chunks or slices (about 1 1/2" in size, maximum). Slice peeled parsnips into 1/2" slices. Remove thyme leaves from woody stalks. Discard all but the leaves.
Heat large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. When the olive oil is hot, add onion and sautee until it begins to brown. Add garlic, squash, parsnip and thyme. Stir and sautee for 2-3 minutes. Add vegetable broth, ginger and all spices and herbs. Vegetables should be almost covered by vegetable broth, but it's fine if they're not completely covered. Bring to a boil, cover and cook on medium heat until the squash and parsnips are soft.
Once the vegetables are soft, turn off heat, mix in rice milk, and allow to cool a bit (I transfered the soup to a bowl to allow it to cool more quickly). Once it's cool enough to blend safely, either use an immersion blender to puree or carefully blend in a regular blender. If you use a regular blender and the soup is still warm or hot, do not fill more than half way - Blend in batches, and as you blend each batch return it to the pot on the stove. You can reheat the soup over low or medium-low heat before serving, if necessary. Add more rice milk or vegetable broth if you prefer a thinner consistency. This soup reheats well after freezing or refrigeration. Using a double-boiler or a heat diffuser, or adding a little extra liquid, will help avoid scorching when you reheat.
Serve plain or garnish with sour cream, vegan sour cream substitute and/or toasted pumpkin seeds.