Cozy Butternut Squash Soup

When the days are clear and the nights are crisp, and you start to get the hankering for hot lattes and cozy sweaters, this is the soup recipe you dust off and get simmering. It's my absolute favorite autumn dinner. It's a take-your-time soup for lazy Saturdays (or work-from-home weekdays), when the cats are sleeping in the last patches of sunlight and your bra is nowhere to be found.

The butternut squash has a warm, caramelized sweetness that is complimented nicely by a touch of nutmeg. The vegetable broth, onion, and carrots provide a classic soup base to the more complex flavor of spiced apple cider. If you're growing tired of the pumpkin spice craze (guilty), you'll love this grown-up autumn favorite. 

What are you waiting for? Crank up some John Legend, shimmy into your apron, and get cooking!

Ingredients:

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • A glug-glug of olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 cups vegetable broth (I prefer gluten-free, low-sodium to keep it clean)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, chopped (I leave the skin on for extra taste and nutrients)
  • 1 pinch thyme leaves
  • 2 pinches nutmeg (or more, or less)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: 1/2 cup half-and-half (for a creamier soup)
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger (if you love ginger)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (if you want a more "spiced" flavor)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the butternut squash in half, lengthwise, and remove the guts (you may save the seeds for garnish, if you're feeling fancy—just bake them in a little oil until brown). Line a cookie sheet with foil and drizzle with a glug of olive oil. Place the squash halves face down on the sheet and bake about 20 minutes, or until soft (if you poke them with a fork and easily break the skin, they're done). Note: It's absolutely essential to bake the squash—baking it brings out all the natural sugars and gives it a nutty, caramelized flavor that is definitely worth the extra work. 

While the squash is cooking, pick up a book and read a chapter. I like to let the squash cool for about an hour after it's done, so it's easier to handle. Go out and get a latte (once you've turned off the oven!), pick up any ingredients you forgot, vacuum, etc. I warned you that this was a take-your-time recipe. 

When the squash is fairly cool, you can chop your onions and carrots and cook them in a sturdy stock pot with that other glug of oil. Cook them until soft, then add the broth, apple, and thyme. While they're simmering, remove the skin from the squash (I use a spoon) and put the flesh in a blender. Add the apple cider and blend until it looks like baby food (yum?). Next, add it to the stock pot and stir in. Cover the pot and simmer until the apples are very soft. 

While things are simmering, you might want to switch out that John Legend CD to something peppier. You could also read, paint your nails, put your cutting board in the dishwasher, etc. 

Once the apples are soft, turn off the heat and do some more dilly-dallying until the soup isn't so hot. When it's okay to touch, work in batches and use a blender to puree all the soup (it's more convenient to use an immersion blender, if you have one, but I don't, so a regular blender works fine for me). Using a regular blender can be messy, so make sure the soup is cool before attempting. I have two solid reasons to wait until it's cool: 1) you can ruin your blender by accidentally melting the rubber seal to the lid (totally didn't do this one time) and 2) you'll be right in the splash zone, and you don't want to burn yourself. 

Once it's completely blended, return to the pot and stir in any desired optional ingredients, plus salt and pepper to taste. 

Serving: I like to serve this soup with some bread and butter, with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives on top. I like to eat this soup while watching reruns of old sitcoms with a glass of white wine, but that's just me.