Several of my friends have asked me for a good recipe to bring to friends or family when they are sick or are recovering from surgery. This is a tricky request because it’s hard to know what other people like to eat. I believe most people like soup, and it’s easy to throw in the freezer if they don’t want to eat it right away. You could buy them soup from a restaurant or grocery store, but homemade soups always taste better! Besides, you can control the amount of fats and salts.
I became an unintentional expert on this topic last winter. I was undergoing treatment for cancer, and our friends and extended family delivered dinner every night of the week. Although I appreciated every one of them, I really liked the hearty and healthy dishes, like soup. (My friends and family used an online “food planning” service called
LotsaHelpingHands.com to coordinate our food deliveries. It was invaluable to us this winter, and I recommend it for all of your soup deliveries!)
When making this recipe with young chefs, let them scoop the cooled squash out of the shell. Put it in a large bowl and let them mix it with a spoon or fork (or their hands). Squash pulp has an interesting texture, one that your kids probably haven’t felt before.
My kids were really interested in the pureeing step at the end of the recipe. I pureed the white beans first with an immersion blender and they thought it looked pretty cool (the beans came squishing out the sides of the immersion blender). They also liked to add their own garnish at the end. My son added a spoonful of sour cream, diced apples, and extra cinnamon to his bowl. My 4-year-old daughter added about five spoonfuls of sour cream (before I noticed what she was doing). She likes a little soup with her garnish!
Butternut squash soup
1 medium butternut squash (2–3 pounds) Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup water, or more as needed
1 can white beans, drained and pureed (use a regular or immersion blender)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Cinnamon to taste
Sour cream for garnish
Apples for garnish, peeled, cored, and diced into tiny pieces.
Preheat oven to 350°. Cut squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Arrange the halves cut side down in roasting pan that has been sprayed with nonstick vegetable oil spray. Bake squash in the oven for 40–60 minutes or until very tender (the cooking time depends on how much your squash weighs, so don’t be surprised if it takes longer than 60 minutes). Set aside to cool. When the squash is completely cool, scoop the flesh from the skin.
While the squash is baking, cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil (in a large heavy-bottom soup pot) over moderately low heat, for 5 minutes or until the onion is softened. Add the broth and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes, covered. Add the squash pulp to the saucepan. Insert immersion blender into pot and puree until smooth (or transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor — you will likely have to do this in batches). Add white bean puree, and then add enough water to achieve the desired consistency. Then add remaining spices, brown sugar, and salt and pepper. Return the soup to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat until it is hot. Garnish each portion with the heaping teaspoon of low-fat sour cream, diced apple, and extra cinnamon.