by Jacquelyn J. Core JD PhD

All that talk last week about seasonal eating has me thinking about seasonal cooking. Fall is for more than just turkey and pumpkin pie, although those are nice as well. Because I do not eat a lot of meat, when traveling I often end up eating many salads. In the summertime crisp, chilled greens are the perfect antidote to balmy days. But I have to confess that, as the weather turns colder, salads often wear on me. I always do better if I eat seasonally. Autumn and the northern winter that follow it often call for seasonal eating as an antidote.

Root vegetables and squashes are often thought to be grounding, and nothing is better in winter than a good soup. Mix the two, and you have the best of seasonal eating. The Irish can turn any seasonal vegetable into a soup. What an incredible gift!

Several weeks ago Pam, our Wellness Director at the YMCA, roasted a butternut, an acorn, and a delicata squash and turned them into a beautiful squash soup. She had me inspired. With the same squash and a determination for epic comfort food I set out to make my own, seasonal best.  Let’s get cooking!

I️ used to think cooking winter squash was intimidating before I found a foolproof easy way to do it that comes with a hidden stress relief technique. The prospect of cutting winter squash seems to be the equivalent of the prospect of cutting open your hand. These things don’t cut easily. Fast forward to when I discovered that cutting them is not necessary at all. Here’s the trick…

Buy whatever winter squash variety you can find. Wash it. And put it on a cutting board. Now take a sturdy steak knife and jab the knife into the squash 15 to 20 times, depending on the size and how much frustration you need to vent. (That’s the stress relief part). You only need to pierce it deeply enough to allow steam to escape. If you have a crockpot put the squash directly into the crockpot with a couple of cups of water, and cook it on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low all day. If you don’t have a crockpot you really should consider investing in one for your own sanity. Until then, a roasting pan in the oven on 350 degrees will work just fine. When the squash is done you will be able to easily cut it in half, scoop out and discard the seeds, and spoon the flesh into a blender. Blend on high, and you now have the perfect seasonal soup base. From here, let’s get creative…

I know of no better natural cook than my best friend, Janet. Cooked squash (and crockpot) in hand I showed up at her house a few weeks ago ready for experimentation. My plan was simple: add a little almond milk to thin the squash while blending, and blend in a little curry powder to taste. I brought along some pepitas (The green inner kernels of pumpkin seeds) to top the soup. But Janet took us in a completely different, and perhaps more wonderful, direction.

Coconut milk, she said! We put in about half of a can of coconut milk, a pinch of garam masala instead of the curry, and a little salt along with 1/2 inch slice of raw red onion and 1/4 of a red pepper. The result was delicious. In the end we thought it could’ve used a squeeze of lime to increase the brightness, but then again we can be convinced to add a lime to anything.

Get creative with your squash base. Other options to blend in include:

  • Cinnamon and nutmeg for a sweeter version
  • Fresh cilantro and red onion for a Latin American flair
  • Hatch green chilies for a New Mexico Version
  • Roasted sweet peppers and onions for even more seasonal depth.

For now I am wondering if I will ever get tired of winter squash soup.  At this point I think it is doubtful that my experimentation will end before the season ends, but I will keep you posted. Comment below to share your ideas to blend into this seasonal soup base.

Until then, here’s to your good health.