The other day in my home town in upstate New York, the weather was rainy and cool despite it being the middle of May. The mist had settled in and I could barely see the trees up in the hills. This kind of weather makes me want to bake sweets or make a big ol' pot of soup … I chose the healthier option.
The day reminded me of my favorite season – Fall, so a fall vegetable was called for, well technically a fruit. Butternut squash, otherwise known as butternut pumpkin in my native homeland of Australia, is classed as a fruit because it has seeds. I love butternut pumpkin and I especially love that it's a power food.
Butternut pumpkin is low in fat; delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, making it a heart-friendly choice; provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health; has vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of the nervous and immune systems; and has folate, which reduces levels of homocysteine in the blood (a cardiovascular risk factor).
The pumpkin's bright tangerine color also indicates a noteworthy health perk. The color signals an abundance of powerhouse nutrients known as carotenoids. Studies have shown that people consuming diets rich in carotenoids from natural foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are healthier and have lower mortality from a number of chronic illnesses.
The gourd also has very high levels of beta-carotene. Alpha, beta, and gamma carotene are considered provitamins because our bodies automatically converts them to vitamin A.
What's more, just a cup of this power food gives you nearly half the recommended daily dose of antioxidant-rich vitamin C.
The first night the soup tasted great, but the day after it was even more amazing. My husband is not a fan of butternut pumpkin and he's told me more times than I can keep track of how much he dislikes thick, pureed soups, but I begged him to try it. His verdict was a sincere thumbs up as he finished off a bowl.
This is my recipe for Butternut Pumpkin Soup. It's simple and worthy of being served to guests. I typically like to keep my intake of foods low-fat, but this misty day beckoned me for some comfort food so I added cream cheese at the blending stage. You could certainly omit it, but I think it gave it more of a wow-factor, and let's face it, the nutritional value isn't that bad when the recipe yields at least 8 servings.
3 shallots, chopped
2 Tbl spoon olive oil
2 medium-sized butternut squash *
4 cups of hot water
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 tsp dried marjoram
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper (or more according to your taste)
4oz cream cheese
*Cut squash length-ways, spray flesh with a little olive oil and bake flesh-side down on a baking sheet at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45mins.
Dissolve bouillon cubes in the 4 cups of hot water. In a large pot, heat oil and saute shallots until tender. Add peeled, cooked squash, stock, marjoram, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 40mins. Puree squash and cream cheese in a blender in batches until smooth. Return to saucepan and heat through. Do not allow it to boil.