Easy Coconut-Ginger Butternut Squash Soup

Based on pantry ingredients, this soup comes together in the flashiest of flashes.
(And, yes, I love “Love Actually”!)

I’m definitely too old for restaurant work, but I very occasionally do a small volunteer catering job if a friend sweetly asks. My caveats are 1. It’s during the day (unless you just want delivery of soup or stew when you’re in personal need) and for a worthy cause. My bedtime is 9pm, you see. 2. The menu is short and sweet since I have to do all of the cooking. My feet simply aren’t what they used to be. 3. The event isn’t for 100+ people. Commercial kitchen, I’m not. 4. I pick my own help. I’m all about having fun whenever I can. This week, one of those perfect jobs arrived that just about fit all of my requirements. A nearly vegetarian soup, salad, dessert lunch menu was on deck for 35 heads of local Colorado Springs non-profits, which means cook for 40. You never know when a plate will fall off a counter, a guest might bring along a friend, or someone’s starving and eats double. Best husband and sous, Dave, along with good friend/caterer Patti came along to help make it all possible as these things can’t be done alone. Huge thanks to Dave for being the master of the commercial dishwasher and to Patti who decorated the tables with vases of flowers from her own gardens. Both of them made salad, served soup, and kept everyone full and happy.

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Sour Cream of Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

More picnic food!

Every year or two, there’s a new version of cold asparagus soup in my kitchen. Recently, when asparagus was on sale for a song (what else is $1.49 a pound these days?), I made it twice in one week and decided it was high time to update the recipe for the summer of 2022.  I know soup seems cold weather-ish sort of food, but truly it’s not. If you skip around the blog, you’ll see soup in beaucoup variations because to cook seasonally (or even if you don’t), is to find ingredients just perfect for soups and stews summer, fall, winter, and spring. And occasionally a pot of cold weather bean soup or beef stew calls your name about mid-July when grilling is feeling a tish tiresome or a chilly wind and rain hits town. At that point, you give in and stir up all the warm goodness you can in a great big pot.

I make asparagus soup (hot or cold depending on the month) nearly anytime because we have Fed Ex asparagus January – December. And while asparagus is an early spring favorite vegetable in most areas, it has yet to arrive in full force in Colorado yards, though it also grows wild according to one faithful local reader… My second-year plants are beautifully ferny, but no stalks yet I’m sad to say. Next year in Jerusalem.

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Tuscan Chicken Stew (Revisited)

It might seem an odd thing to blog hot soup on the 31st of May, but let’s remember I live in Colorado where we had a foot of snow a week ago, enjoyed a temperature of 40 degrees F when I drank my morning coffee this morning, and are still peering out to see if the thermometer has risen above 60 F this afternoon. (It has not.) The sun is lovely; I’ll give you that. The wind, however, is once more a ________. Let’s just say we call her Mariah and let it go at that. But we Rocky Mountain folk are a long way from the cold food weeks of the year when it’s salad, chilled soup, or sandwich time unless we’re grilling or ordering takeout. That means it’s still hot soup weather for me. (Truth in blogging, you know I’ll make soup anytime.) My Tuscan Chicken Stew Revisited, featured this week, is from my now 8-year old soup book, but somehow never made it on to the blog and needs to be here — if only because it’s a steady visitor in my kitchen and is a delicious easy-fast meal. Over the years of making it for us for dinner, ferrying pots to sick friends, or stirring up a double or triple batch for families experiencing homelessness in our city, it’s morphed in more than one sweet direction. Still often the filling, whole-meal chicken minestrone sort of soup, I’ve sometimes added Italian sausage and other times skipped meat entirely, tipping in extra beans and some tiny pasta at the end. Additional vegetables find their way in when available and it’s not unheard of to see a few croutons perching on top if bread needs using. After Thanksgiving, it’s been made bass-ackwards with leftover shredded turkey stirred in at the end. I’ve even made it with ground chicken, one of my favorite unsung ingredient heroes.

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Creamy Pumpkin-Peanut Soup

Every once in a while, it’s time to cook up an old recipe on the blog, take new photos, and tweak the dish up to today’s standard. That’s exactly what happened the other day with the blog’s very first pumpkin soup from way back in November, 2009. With my book club meeting in my living room last Thursday, I thought I’d move away from the same-old, same-old cheese and whatever….and make a soup I could serve in coffee mugs along with the glass of wine we enjoy. Change = good. I looked at the not few pumpkin soups I’ve blogged and settled on the simple, but fun 12-year-old version that is finished off with peanuts and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. As I sometimes will, I tried making it right from the original recipe, which is so old it’s not even printable. While good, it needed perking up, thickening, and expanding. I was amazed, though, to see how readable the recipe was even then. That’s not to say it didn’t need editing and redoing. It did.

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Pumpkin-Lentil Soup

From one year to the next, I keep a few cans of my favorite Libby’s 100% pumpkin in the pantry. Thanks to my father-in-law, Gene Morgan (who spent years in grocery management), I know that “old” pumpkin makes for better pumpkin pies. I see no difference in pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, or pumpkin martinis but pie — oh yes. The pie filling is darker, feels richer-thicker though still silky, and sports a deeper flavor profile with the aged cans. This year, I’m very glad I kept those few and a couple more because when I put in an order for pumpkin, my King Sooper’s app indicated zero, nada, zip, nil, nought, nothing, though it allowed as there were a few cans of the organic variety left. I don’t like those for pie (ewww), but I’ll take them in a pinch for baked goods and so tapped the icon. When I went to pick up my groceries, I didn’t even get the organic cans. Yikes. What was the story? Should I be grabbing a few pie pumpkins out of the produce section and getting out the roasting pan? Consider a Thanksgiving featuring sweet potato pie? While I have nothing against sweet potato pie as my parents were both southerners, I like pumpkin pie so much better. What’s a baker to do?

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Cauliflower-White Bean Soup with Pancetta

Listen to the Julliard String Quartet/Last Movement, Beethoven String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2….while you read!

You might — or might not — know that around my own house I’m known as “The Soup Queen.” I’m proud of my moniker and after all these years of souping, I choose to believe I deserve it. I can make a fancy-schmancy soup, having bought every single ingredient for it at a certain expense (Let’s say a gorgeous seafood stew for Christmas Eve, for instance), but there’s also the very good chance I’ll look in the refrigerator and pantry to come up with dinner based on what just happens to be lying around looking sad and sorry. Folks who know me have probably had a pot or bowl of soup left on their doorstep at some time or another — maybe when they weren’t feeling up to snuff or when I had more soup than my freezer would hold. Others have shown up for a dinner party only to find two big pots of soup on the stove and a big basket of bread on the counter along with several bottles of my favorite wines. My friend Jean, who gets a little soup every week lately as she’s recovering from a back injury, likes to say, “Please keep me on your soup list!” It makes a woman feel good.

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Turkey Minestrone

Do you have a container of frozen turkey from the holidays in the freezer?

Just a short drive from our house in Colorado Springs is our favorite Italian market and deli Mollica’s, which is perhaps best known as a popular, packed lunch spot on Garden of the Gods Road just west of I-25. Mollica’s is the happy kind of place that still serves old school “red sauce” meals like spaghetti and meatballs or a very good lasagna (all made with fresh pasta) as well as yummy pizza and calzone — though I couldn’t call it a “pizza place.” A large part of the lunch menu has always been devoted to stellar sandwiches (think grinders from house made sausage, scratch meatballs, heroes, and hot Italian beef) and a full line of filling salads that of course are served with fresh bread and butter. While I’m ready to eat anything Mollica’s makes –check out their dinner specials, too — I nearly always choose a salad because I can also get a cup of their minestrone–a simple and herby vegetable soup that just hits the sweet spot in my tummy. Occasionally I wonder why I don’t make some minestrone at home, but for some reason, I rarely do. That just changed.

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FRIDAY FISH: Instant Pot Coconut-Ginger Butternut Squash Soup with Grilled Shrimp

You might be like me and LOVE butternut squash soup. The baseline, silky with cream French-herby sort that graces decent/decadent/expensive restaurant menus and fills you up to the brim while you sip an oaky California Chardonnay. Or maybe the chunky vegetarian variety chock full of not only squash, but also every other vegetable in the whole wide world and is best served up with a local icy-cold wheat beer. Could be the Thai version all curry-laden–both sweet and spicy, which is lovely with a Grüner Veltliner, by the way. What’s your favorite?

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Tequila White Chicken Chili

LIke spicy? Add an extra jalapeño to the pot.

Next to my reading chair I typically keep a big, messy stack of books and magazines; sometimes the Sunday NEW YORK TIMES rests there until the next Sunday rolls around. In the pile are that month’s book club books (I try and keep up with three book clubs plus a cookbook club, though I often don’t succeed) along with another new one or two someone’s told me about or loaned me. If I’m really lucky, and I often am, I also keep a precious something I can read piecemeal, a tiny bit at a time when I need to get off my feet or have an extra 10 minutes before needing to stir a pot or leave for an appointment.

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