Butternut Squash Chicken Soup with Winter Greens

It may be cliche, but with the new year in full swing, all of the Christmas decorations put away, and a freshly cleaned house, I am also in the mood for a fresh and healthy start to the year. I had a week off over the new year, and I got inspired by the book, The Magic Act of Tidying Up. I had heard of this book, but didn't really know what it was all about. I randomly started listening to the audiobook and got sucked into the world of "tidying". I went through my apartment and did some extensive purging, rearranging and cleaning. I brought two very large boxes to my local resale shop, and brought many bags of trash out to the trashcan. It's amazing how much stuff one person living in one small apartment can accumulate. If anyone is wanting a little motivation to really get down into the nitty gritty of cleaning and purging your house I highly recommend this book. I would never have thought that a book on cleaning would inspire me so much, but it did and now I feel so good. My apartment feels light and fresh, and amazingly, so does my mind!

One of my first meals of 2018 went along with the theme of starting the new year on a light and fresh note. This light and healthy butternut squash chicken soup was a good way to clean some things out of my fridge and freezer, as well as feel good about what I'm putting into my body. A leftover chicken thigh and roasted onions, homemade turkey stock from Thanksgiving, roasted butternut squash from earlier in the week, and some fresh greens from the farmer's market all combined to create a lovely leftover lunch. I didn't follow any recipe, or write down any measurements, just threw everything into the pot and let it simmer and it was perfect. 

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Homemade chicken soup does not have to be intimidating nor difficult. When making a simple soup such as this I recommend you look for the best ingredients you can find. Please don't use a cheap can of chicken stock from the grocery store to make chicken soup, you will be disappointed. Either make your own (which is what I always recommend, it's not difficult at all!), or search out some really good store-bought stock or broth. Check labels and make sure the ingredients look decent, it won't be even close to as good as homemade, but it will work in a pinch. 

Other than the stock, you really only need some aromatics - onion, celery, carrot, maybe a little garlic, white wine, miso paste, white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice. Whatever combo sounds good to you. Saute' all that up with a little olive oil or butter, add in your stock and chicken or turkey, maybe some white beans, butternut squash as I did here, or even pasta. Finish with some fresh greens, kale or spinach are good options. Here I used some amazingly fresh and delicious local Asian greens. I can't remember the name, but it was so good. 

 
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Creamy Parmesan Asparagus Soup with Caramelized Onions and Miso

A week and a half ago was what I consider the unofficial start to spring. It was the first week that asparagus showed up at the farmer's market! In my mind, asparagus heralds the return of the fresh produce of spring and a glimpse of what's to come. I eat asparagus continuously from when it first shows up in April or May until the season is over in June. I really never grow tired of it. And I refuse to buy it any other time of the year. What excitement this little vegetable brings. 

The day after I brought my first bunch of asparagus home was a cold and rainy day. I decided that this meant it was time for this absolutely delicious, creamy and filling soup. Asparagus cooked in a some chicken broth until tender, then pureed until smooth with a little miso, maple syrup and parmesan cheese. A simply perfect combination to really showcase this wonderful vegetable in a different way. 

I wanted to keep this soup fairly simple to allow the asparagus to really shine. I thought the miso would be a great way to add some depth and seasoning at the same time, the maple syrup and caramelized onions were important for that little bit of sweetness that most soups call for, and the parmesan cheese was the icing on the cake to really add some cheesy, creamy goodness. That's really about it. Blend it all together until smooth and dinner is served. With some nice crusty bread of course!

 
 

Creamy Parmesan Asparagus Soup with Caramelized Onions and Miso
From Delectably Mine
Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon white miso
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup, optional
  • 1 small garlic clove, lightly crushed
  • 1/4-1/3 pound asparagus
  • 2-3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Directions
Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Once hot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Let it heat for 30 seconds. Add the onions and a pinch or two of kosher salt. Stir to combine. Let Cook for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned and caramelize, adding a splash of water as needed to deglaze the bottom of the pan. 

Meanwhile, heat the stock and water over medium-high heat until simmering. Add the miso, maple syrup if using, and garlic. Cut the asparagus into roughly 1 inch pieces. Add the asparagus to the hot stock mixture and let cook until tender, 15-20 minutes. When the onions are fully caramelized, add them to the pot with the asparagus. 

Once the asparagus is tender, transfer the entire mixture to a blender. Add the parmesan cheese and blend on high speed until completely smooth and creamy. (I went for about 5 minutes with my Vitamix. You might need to go longer with a less powerful blender). During the last minute of blending, slowly pour in an additional 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil while the blender is still running to allow the oil to completely emulsify into the soup. 

Once completely smooth, transfer soup to soup bowls and garnish with additional parmesan cheese and a drizzle of good, fruity olive oil. 

Serves: 1-2

Asparagus Vichyssoise

When the asparagus starts showing up at the farmer's market every year I know I have made it. Spring has (un)officially arrived and warmer weather is on the way. Now it's the middle of June and I've been buying asparagus almost every week at the farmer's market. It's been great!! This past week I decided to try something new with my asparagus, something I've never done before - making a vichyssoise. Of course I was familiar with the name vichyssoise, and I had a vague sense of what this soup was, but until this past week I couldn't have really defined it exactly. Well now I know!

I was excited to try this asparagus vichyssoise first of all because I love asparagus, and second of all because it gave me another opportunity to use my new favorite kitchen toy, a new Vitamix blender! I used some graduation money to splurge on a Vitamix a few weeks ago and have been loving it! It was the perfect tool to make this smooth and creamy soup. So, what I now know about vichyssoise is that it is traditionally a creamy potato leek leak soup that is eaten cold. This was basically that with the wonderful addition of asparagus. There is just a tiny bit of cream and a little Greek yogurt to help make it really nice and creamy with just a bit of tang from the yogurt. A wonderfully healthy and light soup for a hot spring day. 

This is a very simple recipe that does not require a lot of hands on time. All you really need to do is cut up a few veggies, throw them in a pot with some stock and let them cook for a good 40-50 minutes. Then blend away until very smooth with some cream and yogurt and move to the fridge to get nice and chilled. You can garnish with some extra shaved asparagus or a little dollop of cream or yogurt, or a drizzle of olive oil, whatever sounds good to you. I have no doubt you will enjoy this delicious and refreshing spring soup.  

 
 

Asparagus Vichyssoise
Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
Ingredients

  • 1 leek
  • 1/2 pound asparagus
  • 1 small potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cream
  • 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 40g samphire
  • Grated zest of ½ lemon

Directions
Peel the potato and dice roughly. Chop off and discard the tough green ends of the leeks. Cut through the pale center, then wash well and slice roughly. Trim off and discard the woody base of the asparagus. Cut all but two of the spears into 3/4-inch pieces, keeping the tips separate. Reserve whole spears.

Place the vegetables, except for the asparagus tips and reserved whole spears, with the butter in a medium saucepan and sauté on medium heat for about 4 minutes; make sure they don’t take on any color. Cover the vegetables with the stock and add the sugar and some salt and white pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 40 minutes. At the end of this time add the asparagus tips and continue cooking for 10 minutes.

Once done, blitz the soup well in a blender until very smooth. Gently fold in the cream and half the yogurt. Allow the soup to come to room temperature, then chill.

While the soup is cooling down, bring a pan of water to the boil and blanch the reserved asparagus for 2 minutes; drain and refresh under plenty of cold water. Shred.

Pour the chilled soup into bowls and serve with a dollop of yogurt swirled in and topped with the shredded asparagus and lemon zest if desired. 

Spicy Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Soup

It's squash season at the farmer's market and grocery store, I just wanted to let you know in case you've missed the giant piles of butternut, spaghetti, acorn, delicata, hubbard and other squashes that seem to have taken over everywhere produce is to be found. I don't know about you, but I never tire of delicious winter squash, never. I love the sweet and creaminess of this extremely versatile vegetable. You can eat it on it's own, sweet or savory, you can add it to salads, soups, stews, chili, pasta, or you can add the mashed flesh to baked goods, smoothies, oatmeal...the list just goes on and on.

I have been baking up squashes left and right over the past couple of weeks. I love having already cooked squash sitting in the fridge, ready for whatever I feel like making. One of my recent creations was this delicious soup. With a couple of cups of cooked butternut squash hanging out in the fridge and some red lentils that have been trying to make an appearance for some time now, I knew a simple soup was just the thing. The perfect thing to sit down to on a cool autumn afternoon.

The inspiration for this soup was a recipe I found on Food52 for a sweet potato red lentil soup. I took the idea and made it my own, substituting butternut squash for the sweet potato and a chipotle pepper for the harissa since I didn't have any harissa on hand. For the spices, I just threw in a mix of some of my favorites such as cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, you get the idea. I didn't measure them. When you're making a quick soup for yourself on a chilly day there's no need to measure or worry about exactly which spices to add. Just pick some of your favorites, add in whatever seems like a good amount and go from there. It's not an exact science, that's what makes cooking so fun, it turns out different every time, but always tasty!

Spicy Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Soup
Heavily Adapted from Food 52
Ingredients

  • 1/4 onion, sliced thin
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 small chipotle chili
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1-2 cups cooked, cubed butternut squash
  • A few shakes each of your favorites spices (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, etc.)
  • Cilantro, for garnish

Directions
Heat a small amount of oil in a small saucepan. Once hot, add the onion and saute for 5-10 min, until translucent and just starting to color. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, a minute or two. Then add the carrot and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, let cook over medium heat, covered, until carrot begins to soften. Then add chipotle, stock, lentils, butternut squash and spices. 

Cook until everything is soft and cooked through, 20-30 minutes, adding water as needed to reach your desired consistency. Transfer soup to blender and blend until smooth. Return blended soup to pan. (Alternatively, use an immersion blender to blend soup until smooth.) Add water more water if needed. Taste for seasoning and serve, garnishing with cilantro if desired. 

Yields: 2-3 servings

Smokey Tomato and Charred Corn Soup

The day started out chilly and damp yesterday. The perfect kind of day to curl up with a good book and a cup of coffee. Because I was cold all morning, a big bowl of warm soup sounded like the perfect lunch. Happily I had some frozen homemade marinara sauce in the freezer, the quickest and easiest way to throw together a delicious tomato soup. I thawed some of it out, added some water and let it bubble away on the stove until nice and hot. For some additional flavor I added in a scoop of basil pesto for freshness and a couple of dashes of smoked paprika for a little smokey flavor. I topped it all off with some grilled and charred sweet corn, thinly sliced green onion, and some nice, sharp aged cheddar cheese. It was the perfect lunch to warm up to on this chilly June Saturday. 

I love using leftover marinara as a base for a quick tomato soup. All of the work has really already been done, all you need to do is heat it up and add some add whatever additional flavors you want, if any. Basil is always a good option, but really any herb will work. If you are wanting something a little creamier, you can always add a little bit of cream, sour cream or yogurt and if you need something a little heartier you can also add in some white beans or quinoa, or even rice or noodles. 

Then toppings, I always like a flavorful cheese like sharp cheddar, parmesan, smoked provolone, but you can use whatever you have on hand. This was the first time I have tried adding corn to a tomato soup and I highly recommend it. The crunchy and sweet corn kernels just burst in your mouth, full of flavor. Thin sliced onions, crispy croutons or chopped sweet pepper would also be wonderful additions. 

Smokey Tomato and Charred Corn Soup 

From Jana

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pre-made marinara sauce, homemade or store bought
  • Approximately 1 cup water or stock
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup grilled corn kernels
  • Thinly sliced green onion
  • Grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

Combine the marinara, water or stock and smoked paprika in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer for 5-10 minutes to let it all heat up and help the flavors to really meld. You may want to add more or less water depending on how thick your marinara is and how thick or thin you like your tomato soup. 

Once the soup is nice and hot, transfer to a bowl and taste for seasoning. Top soup with grilled corn, green onion and cheddar cheese. 

Chana Dal Lentil Soup

I woke this morning and checked the old temperature gauge (aka my phone) to discover it was a balmy -6° Fahrenheit, not the windchill, the actual temperature (the windchill was a lovely -20°). In these kinds of conditions I crave something warm and hearty, simple yet filling and flavorful. This recipe was the first time I've tried chana dal. I spent some time researching exactly what chana dal is, and to be honest I'm still a little confused as to whether it is split lentils or split chickpeas or something else. Whatever the case, it is some kind of dried pulse or legume. If anyone has a good explanation of what dal is please let me know, I'd love a good definition. 

Regardless of what exactly dal is, this recipe is simple and filling. Dal cooked with tomatoes, onions and various spices. and finished with cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It doesn't get much easier than this, and it is so healthy. If you are looking for something hearty and warming this winter that's a little different than the norm, give this recipe a try. A thick slice of hearty bread on the side to mop up all the extra juice is the only other thing you need to finish off this delicious meal. 

All this recipe really requires of you is a little time. Chop a few vegetables, throw them into a pan with the lentils and a few spices and let it all cook away for an hour or two. When it's finished cooking you just need to add a few garnishes for freshness and a little more flavor. Then plate up and dig in. There is also so much room for innovation and creativity in this dish. Add some extra veggies, some different spices, another herb, whatever you like. In the end, I don't think you will be disappointed. 

Chana Dal Lentil Soup

From 

The Spice Spoon

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp corn or any other neutral oil
  • ½ small onion sliced thinly
  • 3 small tomatoes, blanched, skins removed and diced
  • 1 tsp tomato paste (optional)
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
  • 1 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
  • ½ tsp red chilli pepper (to taste-or can be omitted altogether if you don’t like spicy soups)
  • 1½ litre of boiling water (approximately 6 cups)
  • 400g chana lentils (approximately 2 cups)
  • 2 1-cm thick slices (a little less than ½-in.) of peeled ginger
  • fresh cilantro (or your favourite herb) for garnishing
  • paprika or sumac for garnishing (optional)
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • lemon wedges

Directions

Note: If you soak the lentils in cold water overnight or for an hour prior to cooking, you can reduce the cooking time from 1½ to 1 hour.

Coat bottom of a large pot with oil and place on medium-low heat. Add sliced onions and cook for 30 minutes; checking every 10 minutes. Cook till onions wilt and turn golden.

Add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, turmeric, salt and chilli pepper and turn flame to medium-high. Sauté for 2-3 minutes till tomatoes look jammy (i.e., their liquid has reduced).

Add boiling water, lentils and ginger. Reduce heat to low. Stir and cover pot with lid.

Simmer until lentils are tender- test a grain between your thumb and forefinger- about 1½ hour.

Remove and discard the ginger slices.

The proceeding steps are optional; they are for those who want a thicker, soup-like consistency. If you don’t want a soup, but a traditional Pakistani-style Chana Dal, once the lentils are tender, loosen them with a little bit of water till the desired consistency is achieved and taste for salt and red chilli pepper. Serve with fresh, chopped coriander on top.

When lentils have cooled, transfer 1 cup of lentils and process in a blender till smooth and creamy. Loosen with a little bit of water. Pour back into pot. (For those of you who have an immersion blender, you can blend the soup directly in the pot.) Slowly add boiling water to soup till desired consistency is achieved. Taste for salt and red chilli pepper.

Serve with fresh coriander or your favourite herb; a sprinkle of paprika or sumac (optional); a drizzle of very good olive oil and lemon wedges to add tanginess.

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

I don't know where summer went, but this weekend is definitely feeling like fall. It's so funny though, the leaves have not even started changing colors yet which is super late. So even though it feels like fall, it has yet to look like fall, a very strange combination. I'm not quite ready for the cool weather to start moving in, I want to eek out every last drop of summer that I can. Pining for summer, but dressing for fall, this soup is the perfect way to get the best of both worlds. A creamy and comforting tomato soup using fresh, perfectly ripe tomatoes from the farmers market and basil straight from the garden. It's pure summer in a bowl, yet warming enough to fight off the beginning of autumn chill that has decided to drop by, a winning combination. 

Before making this soup, I looked at a few different tomato soup recipes and then I put together my favorite parts of all of them, using what I had on hand. Tomato soup is so easy to make, and it is so delicious. If you've never had homemade tomato soup, and have only ever suffered through a bowl from a can, you don't know what you're missing. I used to think I didn't like tomato soup. Then I discovered that I just don't like canned tomato soup. Homemade is infinitesimally better, it isn't even comparable to the stuff out of a can. And while I used fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes make a pretty good soup too, so in the middle of winter you can still whip up a batch. So if you've never tried making your own tomato soup, I urge to to give it a try, it is so easy and so worth it. 

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

From Delectably Mine

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 tablespoon sour cream to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • pinch sugar
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil, plus more to garnish

Directions

Cut tomatoes in half or in quarters and place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Add the onion and garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes at 450 degrees. 

Once vegetables are roasted, transfer to a small sauce pot and add the stock. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return pot to heat and add the salt, sour cream, lemon juice, sugar, red pepper flakes and basil. Let soup simmer for 15-20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Serve, garnishing with more basil and parmesan cheese, or more sour cream.