Thursday, November 7, 2013

Spiced butternut squash soup

I have to admit it: Getting a Ph.D. is harder than I thought. Contrary to popular belief, there is no extra credit for dressing well or for bringing in good food. Even wearing deodorant and chewing lunch with your mouth closed won't help you much (Ok, let's not even go there...). As if researching all day was not hard on one's sanity, there are other aspects of Grad School that can seriously cause some serious PTSD, and will certainly be a recurrent topic between you and your shrink in the future. Once a year, you have to present a departmental seminar where you describe your research, and twice a year you have to meet with your thesis committee, a.k.a. the people who decide when (and if) you graduate. Turns out this year I get to experience the joy of going through both, the seminar and the meeting, within a few weeks of each other.


Extra work and extra stress mean I have less time to enjoy fall. No hiking, no apple picking, no nothing. I may not be able to go out and enjoy the highlights of the season. Still, I can do my best to lure autumn into the kitchen so I can enjoy it from a "safe" distance. What could be better at delivering me a slice of fall happiness than a butternut squash soup? I'll save you some time; nothing can.

My butternut squash soup takes about half an hour to make and it's full of flavor. I started by
sautéeing the aromatics (onions, shallots and garlic). I added hot chicken stock, and seasoned it with cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, red chili powder and salt. I added cubed butternut squash, and simmered until the pieces were tender. There's only one more step. I pureed the soup in the blender in two batches, adding honey just before blending. That's all. To garnish, I used lowfat plain yogurt and herbs.

This soup was exactly what I needed: a low-effort, high satisfaction fall delight that gave me comfort and encouragement to persevere during these stressful times. I know I went a bit crazy on the honey, but at 297 calories I can't complain! The flavor is well rounded. What else could you ask for? Oh yeah, I know, a Ph.D.

On the road shortcut

1 large onion
1 shallot
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
one 2.5lb butternut squash, peeled, cored and cubed in 1-inch cubes 
4 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup lowfat yogurt (for garnishing)
fresh oregano (or other herb, to garnish)

Sautee the onions and shallots until they have softened (about 5 minutes.) Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds (to prevent burning). Add chicken stock, and seasoned it with cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, red chili powder and salt. Add cubed butternut squash, and simmer until the squash is tender. Puree the soup in the blender as two batches. Add 2 tablespoons of honey per batch just before blending. Use 2 tablespoons of lowfat yogurt and herbs to garnish.

Nutritional info:
297 calories, 62 g carbs, 4 g fat, 8 g protein

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