Article: A pot of butternut soup with roasted chilies makes a healthy gift idea

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While many might think about giving someone soup when they are feeling under the weather, a nourishing pot of soup can be the perfect holiday gift for anyone you care about! If you are doing mental gymnastics trying to figure out gift ideas for some of your close friends and neighbors, soup just might be the answer! I want to share three reasons why this homemade gift makes sense!

  • Not only is soup practical, but it won’t contribute to the clutter! We all seem to be collecting clutter at an alarming rate, and don’t need any help adding to it!
  • A nourishing soup can do wonders for strengthening the immune system and even boost our emotional state! Savoring a warm soup meal prepared by someone who cares about us can feel like a big hug, and when we combine some of the most healthful ingredients available, we deliver a care package of critical nutrients to our cells!
  • Soup is one of the most versatile gifts around! Not only does the “gift-er” have an unlimited number of recipes from which to choose, but the “gift-ee” has so many options for when and how to enjoy the soup! You can make the soup when it is convenient for you and then gift it right away or the next day!  When we are managing the chaos that often accompanies the holiday season, getting a call or text that soup will be delivered can be a real help!

Once you are aware of any allergies or food preferences, a quick web search for soup recipes or just a few minutes on Pinterest will provide countless options! It will be best to choose a bean or vegetable based soup without any noodles or pasta in it, as they will do much better in the freezer. Pasta tends to absorb a lot of liquid and then gets too soft when thawed. To make your decision even easier, try my newest soup recipe: AJ’s Butternut Soup with Roasted Chilies or revisit a family favorite, as Austin’s Black Bean Soup never disappoints (at www.thenutritionprofessor.com).

Simply attach a note with some helpful instructions – “This soup was made with love from nourishing ingredients, to be enjoyed right away, packed up to take to work for lunch on several days, or divided up in thirds with two containers going into the freezer for easy meals during the next few weeks.  It can be enjoyed in a mug or bowl with or without toppings, accompanied by a sliced orange, apple, pear, or persimmon.”

                AJ’s Butternut Soup with Roasted Chilies

My son and I love developing soup recipes together and this one is not only easy and delicious, but it freezes extremely well, so it is perfect for gifting!  For a special treat, deliver the soup with some or all of my favorite toppings, along with a fresh winter fruit salad (oranges, apples, pears, pomegranate arils, fresh mint and juice from half of a lime or orange), or Mia’s Apple Salad (www.thenutritionprofessor.com).

Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash (2.75lbs, ~7-8 cups diced with skin, if organic)

1 cup red onion, diced

2-4 cloves of garlic

2 cans of fire-roasted chilies (4 oz each)

2-3 teaspoons of Austin’s Smoky Spice Blend (see below)

Your favorite greens* (3 cup fresh or 2 cups frozen)

4 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth (more may be needed to thin soup once cooked)

1 1/2 cup cooked white beans*

Toppings: cilantro, avocado, red cabbage, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and a squeeze of fresh lime

Procedure

  1. Crush or chop garlic and let it sit while you prepare the squash.
  2. Cut the stem off squash, then cut in half just where the base widens. Cut the round-shaped base in half and scoop out the seeds. Then dice all of the squash into medium-sized pieces. No need to peel it since it will be pureed in the blender.
  3. Warm a large soup pan over medium heat and add onion. Let it brown, but if it begins to darken too quickly, turn down the heat and begin to stir it, or add a few tablespoons of water or veggie broth.
  4. When onion begins to soften (after 2-4 mins), add garlic and seasonings, cooking for a minute while stirring constantly, so that the garlic does not burn.
  5. Add the veggie broth and squash and bring to boil, then simmer covered until squash is tender (~30 mins).
  6. Add the greens and beans and simmer for an additional 5 mins.
  7. Once it has cooled slightly, puree in batches in the blender for a velvety soup! Add additional broth to thin soup, if desired.
  8. Enjoy with toppings for a taste and texture party that will tickle your senses!

Austin’s Smoky Spice Blend (salt-free): 2 tsp coriander, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp each: smoked paprika, cayenne, oregano and granulated garlic. Double the recipe as it can be stored in a small airtight container for several months and makes a great topping for homemade baked tortilla chips!

The Nutrition Professor’s Shop Smart, Prep Smart, Cook Smart Tips

*Frozen chopped collard greens were splendid!
*For delicious heirloom beans grown locally www.elegantbeans.com – try Hutterite, White-Eyed Peas or Snowcap varieties for this soup

Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified exercise physiologist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, conducts corporate wellness work, does professional speaking engagements and has a regular segment on California Bountiful TV. For more of Timaree’s wonderful recipes and customizable meal ideas, be sure to purchase her innovative cookbook – The Foodie Bar™ Way: One meal. Lots of options. Everyone’s happy. available at www.FoodieBars.com

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