Monday, January 17, 2011

Guest Post: BFF Squash Soup With an Added Bonus Lentil Soup

Michelle spends her days as a computer geek. In her copious spare time she throws all of her creative energies into cooking. She is the mother of two pre-school aged boys and is married to a wonderful man who does all of her dishes.

A funny thing happened while I was making French Onion Soup for the first time: I discovered that onions sautéed in butter made a wonderful base for a vegetable broth. I extended that thought by adding carrots, celery, mushrooms and thyme after the onions had browned a bit (10-15 minutes), cooked for a few more minutes, and then added water. From that point, I could make any number of soups and they would have been incredibly rich.

The first time I made it, I added two cups of lentils with about 12 cups of water and some more thyme. I brought it to a boil and then lowered to simmer for an hour. It was awesome! I have always loved lentil soup and still have fond memories of eating canned Progresso as a child. This soup beat the pants off Progresso.

This weekend I was charged with making butternut squash soup for my Best Friend’s 40th birthday dinner. The complicating factor was her wonderful new boyfriend, who is a vegetarian. I always used chicken broth in the past and had a batch of chicken broth itching to be used in my freezer. Fortunately, before I offended the guest of honor and her honored guest I remembered the Lentil Soup vegetable broth base. I also decided to roast the squash with sage and olive oil to add a layer of depth. Once the squash was nicely roasted, browned and mushy, I added it to the soup base. I used my handy dandy hand blender and voila - rich yummy, vegetarian, squash soup.

Just for fun, because I don’t have enough to do with my husband, two children under five, full-time job out of the house and three cats, I decided to make sage toasted croutons out of homemade bread. I used my new go-to no knead bread recipe and then tossed crouton-sized chunks with sage and olive oil and toasted in the oven at 350 degrees until crunchy. You could save some time by toasting the croutons while you roast the squash.

If 20 cups of soup seems like too much, both soups freeze well or make great party favors. We left some with our hosts and gave some to the guest of honor to take home.


If these look good, you'll surely enjoy:

Vegetable Stock Base

 4 TB salted butter
1 large onion (I used yellow)
3 large carrots diced (about two cups)
3 large celery sticks diced (about two cups)
1/2 pint mushrooms diced (about two cups)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
12 cups water

1) Melt butter in large stock pot

2) Cook onions in butter on medium heat until they brown, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3) Add carrots, celery, mushrooms, thyme leaves and pepper and cook for another 10 minutes stirring occasionally.

4) Add water, salt and thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil and then lower to simmer for a half hour.


Squash Soup with Sage Croutons
Makes about 20 cups of soup

1 recipe vegetable stock base
1 large butternut squash peeled and cubed
30 fresh sage leaves chopped
1/2 loaf hearty bread cut into cubes
4 TB olive oil split
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2) Toss squash with 2 TB of olive oil, 1/2 the sage leaves, salt and pepper.

3) Toss bread cubes with 2 TB of olive oil and the other 1/2 of the sage leaves.

4) Roast the squash on the bottom half of the over for 40 minutes stirring at 20 minutes.

5) Toast the bread cubes on the top half of the oven until you reach your preferred level of crunchiness. I like mine crunchy and it took about 20 minutes.

6) Add the squash to the vegetable stock base. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.

7) Puree soup with a stick hand blender if you have one. Alternately you can use a regular blender but be very careful!


Bonus Lentil Soup
Makes about 20 cups of soup
1 recipe vegetable stock base
2 cups lentils
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Add two cups of lentils to vegetable stock base. Bring to a boil and then lower to simmer for an hour or until the lentils are soft.

2) Add salt and pepper to taste.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
191 calories, 6.4 g fat, $0.63

4 tablespoons butter: 400 calories, 44 g fat
1 large onion: 67 calories, 0.13 g fat
1 medium butternut squash: 410 calories, 1.0 g fat
3 carrots: 164 calories, 0.62 g fat
3 celery stalks: 18 calories, 0.21 g fat
½ pint mushrooms: 30 calories, 0.48 g fat
4 TB olive oil: 476 calories, 54 g fat
1 tsp thyme: negligible fat and calories
30 sage leaves: negligible fat and calories
Salt, freshly ground black pepper: negligible fat and calories
½ loaf whole wheat bread: 540 calories, 6.00 g fat
TOTAL: 1705 calories, 62.44 g fat
PER SERVING (TOTAL/20): 85.25 calories, 3.12 g fat

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